Mother knows best

There are good reasons why Mom nagged us to sit up straight. Good posture makes us look younger, more confident and gives an impression of overall vitality. Improving posture also can help to reduce back, joint and shoulder pain and alleviate nerve compression and other negative effects of allowing the head to pitch forward, the shoulders to round and the spine to slouch.

The simple exercises below will target the muscles you use most in improving and maintaining good posture. When they are done regularly, sitting or standing up straight will take less effort.

Thank You

Thanks to Emily Boyd for demonstrating proper form, and to Women's Fitness Company in Medford for providing the space and equipment for our photo shoot.

If you experience pain or discomfort, stop the exercise and consult your physician.

Chin glide

1. Bring your teeth gently together and slowly, softly glide head backward — 1/4 to 1 inch — without tilting it, until you feel mild tension. Keep shoulders relaxed.

2. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat two more times.

Mid-back stretch

1. Extend your arms out and up to about shoulder-height, bent at the elbows with palms pointing up.

2. Squeeze shoulder blades together until you feel a stretch along chest and front of your shoulders.

3. Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times. If this hurts, hold arms a bit lower. After doing this exercise for a few weeks, gradually raise them.

Prone cobra

1. Start on your stomach, flex feet and position toes on the floor. Keep abdominals lifted and ribs pressed inward.

2. Place arms wider than shoulder-width, palms facing down and shoulder blades pressed down and back.

3. Contract back muscles to pull up, rotate shoulders around and squeeze scapulas together, facing palms outward. Be sure to keep chin and neck pulled inward and back.

4. Hold for one second and release back down to the floor.

5. Complete 15 repetitions and repeat for one more set.

Elbow plank

1. Lie on your stomach, plant palms flat on the floor and align elbows with shoulders.

2. Slide shoulder blades back and down; lift torso, hips and legs off the floor with toes positioned on floor.

3. Maintain a neutral spine and engage abdominals and ribs. Keep head aligned with spine, looking in between your hands.

4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat for one more set.

Thoracic-spine mobilization

1. Lie on a foam roller, placing it underneath shoulder blades.

2. Place feet flat on the floor and hands behind your head. Keep elbows lifted and abdominals and ribs tight.

3. Lift hips upward and squeeze glutes.

4. Hold for one second and release back down to the floor.

5. Complete 15 repetitions and repeat for one more set.

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