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What can I do to avoid hunched shoulders?

The question: I see so many people hunched over with bad posture. What can I do so I don't end up like this?

The answer: You need to stretch out your chest muscles and strengthen your upper back muscles. Tight chest muscles pull the shoulders forwards, while strong upper back muscles help the body stand tall.

Modify your gym routine so you do two upper back exercises for every one chest exercises. For example, if you do push-ups, do rows and reverse flys.

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In addition, do exercises to improve proprioception, the body's ability to know where it is in time and place. If you have poor proprioception, your body will have to compensate by looking down and over using vision to know what your feet are doing.

No matter how strong your upper back muscles are, poor proprioception will ultimately cause a hunched upper back because you will have to bend over to know what your feet are up to. Over time, this will cause the upper back to become rounded.

To train proprioception, try "tandem walks." In bare feet, step your right heel in front of your left toe and then your left heel in front of your right heel. Try not to look down as you continue alternating your feet to move forward as though you are walking on a tightrope. Every third step, pause and close your eyes.

Trainer's tip

End your workouts with an exercise that promotes good posture. Try a simple "ceiling reach." Stand tall, holding no weight. Reach your arms above your head. Follow your arms with your eyes. Repeat 10 times.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Kathleen Trotter

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