7 Easy Exercises to Improve Posture—and Prevent Back Pain

By Julia Sullivan, A.C.E.-certified trainer, senior fitness specialist |

Give your body’s movement “powerhouse” the T.L.C. it deserves with these do-anywhere core-strengthening exercises.

Core exercises for better posture

Whether you’re returning a far-left serve in pickleball or picking up a heavy box in the garage, your core is responsible for activating most movements in your day-to-day life. That’s because the core muscles act as a central powerhouse for the body.  

What counts as a core muscle? Your abs, yes, but also the muscles that run up and down your back. The muscles in your glutes and hip also count. Even your diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles are part of the package. 

Together, your core gives your limbs momentum to move while keeping your body from toppling over in the process. 

When your core is weak, it has ripple effects on your body. A weak core can throw off your posture, or the ability to hold yourself upright — both in movement and at rest. A 2018 study from the journal Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders found that muscle strength in the core was directly correlated with posture.   

And poor posture isn’t just about aesthetics. Another 2018 study from the International Journal of Sports Medicine noted that a weak core, alongside poor posture, increases a person’s risk for back pain and injuries.  

While regular core-strengthening workouts aren’t the end-all, be-all to better posture (poor posture can also be caused by a person’s genetics or even certain disorders), a strong midsection can help stabilize your everyday movements.  

Get and stay fit with SilverSneakers! Classes and events are happening daily at participating gyms, online through SilverSneakers LIVE, and at community centers near you. Activate your free online account to get started. 

How to Use these 7 Core-Strengthening Exercises to Improve Your Posture and Prevent Back Pain

To help keep slouching (and back pain) at bay, do these exercises three to five times a week. They’re gentle enough to do every day. 

You’ll need a sturdy chair and an optional floor mat for some of the exercise variations. Position yourself near a wall, counter, or sofa for extra support, if needed. 

As always, safety is key. Get your doctor’s OK before beginning a new exercise program. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.   

1. Seated Back Extension


How to do it: 

  1. Sit tall in your chair and place a rolled-up towel, small pillow or exercise ball as high as you can behind your back. (Make sure it’s above your lower back.) 
  2. Place your hands behind your neck, at the base of your skull, and keep your elbows pointed forward slightly. 
  3. Start with a neutral spine where your shoulders are over your hips. 
  4. Inhale and extend back over the towel slightly. 
  5. Hold for 10 seconds at the bottom of the extension. 
  6. Slowly release to a seated upright position.  
  7. Repeat 3 times.  

2. Standing March


How to do it: 

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold on to the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. As you get stronger, try to perform the move without holding on to anything.  
  2. From here, lift one knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor (or as close to parallel as you can go) while keep your torso straight and avoiding any leaning.  
  3. Slowly return your foot to the floor and immediately lift the other knee.    
  4. Continue alternating, or marching in place, for 30 seconds. 
  1. Variation: While holding onto the wall or chair, lift one leg at a time, doing 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg. Be sure to move slowly, engaging your core muscles throughout. 


3. Modified Bird Dog


How to do it: 

  1. Stand facing the back of a sturdy chair, keeping both hands on the chair. 
  2. Keep your neck and spine straight and knees slightly bent. 
  3. Brace your abdominals and lift one arm and opposite leg until they’re in line with your spine. 
  4. Pause, then return your hand and foot to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. 
  5. Do 5 reps. 
  6. Switch sides and perform 5 reps with the opposite arm and leg.  
  7. Repeat 2 to 3 more times with each side. 

Make it harder: Do the move bent over the chair.

How to do it:

  1. Bend over and place both hands on the seat of a chair so they’re directly under your shoulders. 
  2. Keep your neck and spine straight and knees slightly bent. 
  3. Brace your abdominals and lift one arm and opposite leg until they’re in line with your spine. 
  4. Pause, then return your hand and foot to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. 
  5. Do 5 reps. 
  6. Switch sides and perform 5 reps with the opposite arm and leg.  
  7. Repeat 2 to 3 more times with each side. 

Make it even harder: If the modified bird dog variation (above) is too easy, do the exercise from an all-fours position on the floor. Be sure to brace your abdominals to help prevent your back from arching. 

Love these exercises and want more? Try a Core Conditioning Express class with SilverSneakers LIVE! This 15-minute class includes both standing and floor exercises. View the schedule and RSVP here. 

4. Alternating Toe Taps with Knee Lift


How to do it: 

  1. Stand tall with your head and chest up, and your arms bent at your sides.  
  2. Feel free to place a hand on a wall or sturdy chair for support, if needed.  
  3. Shift your weight to your right foot and tap your left foot’s toes on the ground in front of you.  
  4. Return your left foot back to the starting position, shift your weight onto that foot, and tap your right toes to the front.  
  5. Continue alternating your front toe taps while you pump your arms for 20 seconds. 

Floor variation:  

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent and both feet on the floor. 
  2. Pressing your low back into the floor, slowly lift one leg straight up to a 90/90 position (90 degrees at the hip and 90 degrees at the knee, sometimes called tabletop position). 
  3. Lower your leg back down and repeat with the other leg. 
  4. Perform 5 to 10 reps with each leg. 
  5. Rest and repeat 2 to 3 more times. 

5. Supported Side Plank 

 How to do it: 

Subscribe to our newsletter
It's quick and easy. You could be one of the 13 million people who are eligible.
Already a member? Click to discover our 15,000+ participating locations.

Follow Us
  1. Lie on your left side with your left knee bent 90 degrees, your right leg extended, and your hips stacked.   
  2. Prop your upper body up on your left elbow and forearm. Your left elbow should be bent 90 degrees and be positioned directly under your shoulder.  
  3. Brace your core by contracting your abs forcefully as if you were about to be punched in the gut.   
  4. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your right ankle to your shoulders.  
  5. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, or as long as you can with good form. 
  6. Rest and repeat 2 to 3 more times.  
  7. Switch sides so that you’re lying on your right side, and repeat.   

Make it easier: Try the move with both knees bent and you will lift your hips, so you are in a straight liine from shoulders to knees. 

Make it harder: Try the move with both legs extended, hips stacked, so you are in a straight line from shoulder to ankles.  

6. Glute Bridge


How to do it:  

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart, and heels a few inches away from your buttocks.  
  2. Press your arms into the floor for support, and brace your core to minimize the arch in your lower back. 
  3. Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up until your body forms a straight line from your knees to shoulders.  
  4. As you get stronger, focus on getting your shins as close to vertical as you comfortably can at the top of the movement.  
  5. Pause, then slowly lower your hips. That’s one rep.  
  6. Do 8 to 10 reps, or as many as you can with good form. 
  7. Rest and repeat 2 to 3 more times. 

7. Cat Cow 

How to do it: 

  1. Start on all fours with your hands below shoulders and knees below hips.   
  2. Slowly round your back up toward the ceiling (like a cat) while tucking your chin toward your tailbone.   
  3. Then reverse the movement by arching your back (think about a cow) while lifting your hips and head.   
  4. Form tip: Focus on raising your head and tailbone to get into the cow position rather than dumping into your lower back.  
  5. Alternate between cat and cow for a slow 10 reps — five with back rounded, five with back arched. 
  6. Rest and repeat 2 to 3 more times. 

Seated variation:  

How to do it: 

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Lean slightly forward to place your hands on your knees with arms extended. 
  3. From there, press down on your knees to round your back, bringing your chin toward your chest as you do. 
  4. Tuck your tailbone slightly, imagining that you’re forming the letter C with your upper body. 
  5. Hold for 15 seconds, taking slow, deep breaths, and then release. 
  6. Do two or three 15-second holds total.   

Standing variation:  

See our sources:
Muscles of the core: American Council on Exercise
Guide to good posture: National Library of Medicine
Core strength directly related to good posture: Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders
Core strength and risk for back pain and injuries: International Journal of Sports Medicine
Other factors that influence posture: Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders 

Take Your Favorite SilverSneakers Classes Online!     

SilverSneakers members can access live fitness classes and wellness workshops through SilverSneakers LIVE. Activate your free online account to get started.     

Not a member? If you have a Medicare Plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.     

Not eligible for SilverSneakers? You can still get 200+ free SilverSneakers On-Demand videos and stay in touch with us bycreating your online account.  

Find out if your health plan already includes the SilverSneakers benefit.  CHECK YOUR ELIGIBILITY