Better posture

The Straight and Narrow Plan
Slouching brings you down in more ways than you might think. Here's a plan for upright living.

Standing up straight is like drinking eight glasses of water a day: Nice if you can do it, but it's not as though slouching will kill you, right? You'd be surprised. In a review of more than 100 studies, scientists from UCLA found that poor posture is associated with breathing problems, falls, depression, and decreased quality of life, all of which shave years off life expectancy.

One of the biggest contributors to slumping is weak muscles in the abdomen and back. "Even people who exercise regularly can have poor posture," says Lesley Powell, director and founder of Movements Afoot, a Pilates wellness center in New York City. "But if you practice good posture, it will carry over to your workout."

Powell's graceful, powerful exercises borrow elements of Pilates, yoga, and dance to target your legs and core. Don't let their elegant appearance fool you, though: They'll quickly strengthen the muscles you need to achieve good alignment.

Hold each position for three to five seconds, resting a few seconds between moves. Then go through the whole series twice more for a total of three sets. As the moves get easier, try holding them longer.

Posture exercise standing side kick


Standing Side Kick
Strengthens abdominals, back, hips, thighs

Extend your arms to the sides, straight out from your shoulders. Lean forward while lifting your right leg, toe pointed, out to the right. Lift your foot 4 inches off the ground and balance. Repeat with the left leg.
Posture exercise balance passe

Balance Passé
Strengthens thighs, abdominals; improves back alignment

Stand and slowly raise your right leg slightly off the ground and your arms over your head. Repeat with the left leg. (For more of a challenge, do this on a yoga block.)
Posture exercise - bridge

Strengthens abdominals, thighs

Lie on your back, arms at your sides, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Press your feet down as you contract the muscles in your legs. Lift your pelvis up; keep your neck relaxed, and let your legs—not your back—do the work. 
Posture exercise - side leg lift

Side leg lift
Strengthens hips, thighs

Lie on your right side with your back touching a wall. Rest your head on your right arm, bend your right leg, with the sole of your right foot facing the wall. Straighten your left leg and lift it about a foot off the ground while pressing the left heel into the wall. Then switch sides. 

Posture exercise - kneeling side kick

5. Kneeling Side Kick
Strengthens shoulders, abdominals, thighs, back

Kneel down on the floor, back straight, and then lean to your left until your left hand is on the floor. Lift your right leg straight out to the side until it's parallel to the floor; move that leg slowly backward and forward for three to five seconds while maintaining a straight spine. Repeat on the right side.