Whether it be vowing to drink more water or exercise regularly or eat healthier, people are all about feeling stronger in the new year. Another, more unexpected way to go about doing that? Improving your posture.
Though it may not immediately come to mind when you think of your overall health, improving your posture can actually help alleviate issues like chronic back pain, frequent muscle soreness, headaches and shortness of breath.
"Practicing good posture reduces stress on muscles and joints, especially when combined with stretching and exercising," says Eugene Mello, a certified neuromuscular massage therapist in Oakland, California. If you don't have good posture naturally, he adds, your back muscles will become tired from trying to sit up straight, causing you to slouch. But with exercise, you can strengthen your back muscles and help make good posture second nature.
In addition to regular strength training, keeping active is everything. "Getting up from your desk and walking around is key," says Mello. "If you find yourself stuck in the same position for 30 to 45 minutes, move to keep your muscles in motion and active."
There are also plenty of products that can work together with exercise to help improve your posture. Of course, every body is individual, so be sure to speak with your health care provider if you're experiencing any back pain or other issues, or are interested in trying something new that you think might help. Here are some of the top-rated products that can help improve your posture, from lumbar travel pillows to standing desk converters.
Seville Classics Gas-Spring Height Adjustable Standing Desk ($159.99, originally $199.99; amazon.com)
"For desk workers, getting a desk that allows you to stand and sit is pretty crucial," says Mello. And this standing desk converter, with more than 5,000 reviews and 4.3-star rating, is a good place to start. While desk converters like this one can easily go for hundreds more, this one has everything you need (keyboard tray, ergonomic table, phone holder) now for less than $200.
AmazonBasics Neoprene Dumbbell Pairs ($28.49; amazon.com)
If you're looking to improve your back (and body) strength, working out regularly is one of the most obvious places to start. "Move intentionally," says Dr. Lars Gunnar, founder of Vital Form Chiropractic in Pasadena, California. "Standing eight hours a day is as bad as sitting eight hours a day. Get up, move, stretch, lift, run." To keep your strength, Gunnar recommends lifting weights at least twice a week. This set of dumbbells, which can start at just 2 pounds, is a beginning weightlifter's dream.
Therm-a-Rest Lumbar Travel Pillow ($29.74; amazon.com)
Traveling can be brutal for people with back issues. This self-inflating back rest can go wherever you do, with a compact design that can inflate in minutes for instant support.
Selbite Posture Corrector ($18.98, originally $28.98; amazon.com)
With more than 2,000 reviews, this is one of the most popular posture correctors on Amazon. The discreet back brace can be comfortably worn under your clothes to relieve back pain and help straighten posture. As with any health intervention, be sure to check with your provider for the green light before giving it a try. Though not all experts are agree on the efficacy of products like this, at least one study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that at the very least, braces can act as a reminder to stand up straighter.
Gaiam Essentials Yoga Block, Set of 2 ($10.99; amazon.com)
"Yoga blocks are a great option to use in a restorative way," Silverlake, California-based fitness trainer and nutritionist Sam Garcia says. "You can put them underneath your upper or lower back to help release tension and open the body." Gaiam's set of two blocks is Amazon's best seller, with 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Vive Lumbar Roll ($12.99; amazon.com)
If you are sitting down for the majority of the day, you want to make sure you're supporting your musculoskeletal system. This firm lumbar roll can help relieve pain and pressure on the hips and spine by promoting proper posture, and attach right onto the chair you sit in most at work or at home.
Samsonite Memory Foam Lumbar Cushion ($17.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
If you're looking for a slightly softer lumbar cushion, this one from Samsonite is beloved for its ultra-cushy feel. If you're stumped on what level of lumbar support is best for you, check with a health professional on the best firmness for what you're trying to achieve.
Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair ($59.11, originally $79.98; amazon.com)
Though it may look extreme at first, this chair (which can be used for yoga and exercise) has been a hit for people looking to augment their posture. Writes one reviewer: "I have had... constant spine problems for years now. When seated, whether I'm more toward the front or up against the backrest, I immediately notice a difference in my posture."
Gaiam Balance Disc ($17.59, originally $21.99; amazon.com)
If you're not ready to go full ball chair, the same brand also makes this neat disc that mimics the sensation (and results) of the ball chair, allowing you to both practice balance and improve your posture in a more subtle manner.
Upright GO Posture Trainer ($79.95; amazon.com)
"Posture is unconscious," Gunnar says. "I'm sure you've told someone to stand up straight, and you've watched them stand up straight really quickly." But wait a minute, he continues, and they'll revert right back to their original position.
If what you need is a reminder, consider the wearable Upright GO device that attaches to your back and vibrates when your posture starts to slip. (And again, check with a health professional before incorporating a device like this into your daily routine.) Though results may be mixed, it could help remind you to straighten up.
ComfiLife Premium Comfort Seat Cushion ($29.95; amazon.com)
If you spend a lot of time in the car, Gunnar suggests investing in a driving seat wedge. "It forces you to sit up straight and engages your core muscles." This top choice comes with more than 9,000 reviews and a 4.4-star rating, with customers using it on everything from their car seat to their work chair.
Thera Cane Massager ($31.88; amazon.com)
When focusing on posture post-injury, Gunnar recommends going with products like the Thera Cane. Though it may look like a simple cane, this massager helps to relieve aches, pains and even knots. It also comes with more than 4,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.7-star rating.
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Trainer Shoe (starting at $92.28; amazon.com)
"Good shoes — when you work out, when you're at work or when you're walking around — is key," says Gunnar, who is a fan of these running trainers because they're not too cushy. "Don't wear overly cushiony shoes," he says. "Overly cushiony shoes actually weaken our legs over time and it can affect our posture. We want something in the mid-range, fairly firm and supportive, but not so cushy that we're losing our contact with the ground."
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed price at the time of publication.