All About Good Posture
Good posture is important no matter how old you are, but there are added benefits for the senior population. This article addressed the topic of good posture and answers several key questions: What are these benefits? What exactly is good posture? and What can be done to improve your posture? In addition, several general tips about exercising are included.
Benefits of Good Posture
Proper alignment in your back and spine helps prevent excessive wear and tear on your muscles and enables you to breathe easier. It can help eliminate excess weight by keeping your internal organs in their natural position so they can function efficiently and also helps with the balance to decrease falls. Good posture also prevents added injuries and physical discomfort so you can continue your active lifestyle, daily activities, and fitness routine. Besides these benefits, you will be less prone to chronic back pain, joint pain in your hips and knees, and decreased endurance/fatigue. Furthermore, recent studies report that people who have poor posture are more likely to have cardiovascular issues that lead to a shorter life expectancy.
What constitutes good posture?
Maybe you had a mother like mine who often said (no not “said”, probably “ordered”), “Stand up straight, put your shoulders back.” Well, that describes someone who has good posture: they are standing tall with their shoulders back and their heads held high.
An easy check to see if you have good posture is to stand with your back against a wall. Press your backside, shoulder blades, and head against the wall. Then ask yourself, “Is this how you normally stand?” For most of us, the answer is “no”. But there are exercises that can help us change our posture.
Simple Exercises to Help Improve Your Posture
Let’s look at several simple exercises that you can do that will help improve your posture. You can start with a set of 5-10 repetitions and gradually build up to more sets (each with 5-10 repetitions and a short rest in between sets).
As you practice these exercises, you should feel more flexibility in your body and see an improvement in your overall posture. It is advisable that you don’t practice these exercises each day; you might consider doing certain exercises every other day and then other ones on the opposite days, so you are still performing posture exercises on a daily basis. This method will ensure your posture gets the necessary attention to get into the very best shape possible.
Exercise #1 Chin tuck and jut
Purpose: helps to maintain a neutral spine while sitting
How to execute: Sit down and continue to breathe normally. Then tuck the chin into the chest, hold for 5 seconds, and jut it forward. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat.
Exercise #2 Mountain Pose
Purpose: stretches your upper body and core muscles
How to execute: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Allow ample room in front of you. Stretch your arms out in front of you and then grasp your hands together. Slowly bring your hands upward, but remember to keep your arms as straight as possible when you reach upward; exhale. Then, bring your arms down as you inhale. To increase the intensity of this exercise, hold a soup can or other small lightweight object in your hands. Repeat.
Exercise #3 Pelvic tilt
Purpose: helps keep your lower back muscles loose; improves balance
How to execute: Stand up (if needed, place your hand on the wall to help with balance). Place your hands on your hips. Slowly thrust your hips forward over your ankles. Then, pull your hips back. Move your hips to the clockwise for a set of 2-3 rotations; then move the opposite direction (for a set of 2-3 rotations). Repeat.
Exercise #4 Pull back the reins
Purpose: strengthens your shoulders; opens up your chest and lungs
How to execute: Stand up, bend your elbows, and place your hands on your hips. Reach forward slowly, feeling the stretch in your upper arms and shoulders. Don’t bend your body forward. Using a smooth action, pull your arms back similar to pulling back the reins of an animal and stop where your arms were at the beginning of the exercise. Repeat.
Exercise #5 Raising arms up
Purpose: corrects shoulder posture and helps with breathing
Stand or sit. Start with your arms down along your side. Then, raise the arms out to your side, just about to shoulder height. Next, squeeze the shoulder blades together and hold for a count of 5 seconds. Return the arms to the side. Repeat.
Exercise #6 Shoulder circles
Purpose: helps keep shoulders from angling forward caused by slouching
How to execute: First, sit up tall and breathe normally. Slowly raise the shoulders up and hold for 5 seconds. Then, lower them. Repeat.
Exercise #7 Spinal extension
Purpose: improves posture especially for those who slouch or usually keep their chin down
How to execute: First, inhale and sit as tall as possible for a count of 5 seconds. Then, relax and exhale. Repeat.
Exercise #8 The turtle
Purpose: gently warms up the muscles in the neck; good for a warmup to start the day or before daily exercise
How to execute: Stand up or sit in a chair. Slowly move your head toward the front of your body, stretching your neck forward like a turtle. Don’t pull your chin down. Hold for 5 seconds. Then, slowly extend your head and neck backward in the reverse motion (i.e., pushing your head back into your neck). Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat.
Exercise #9 Tug of war
Purpose: stretches both sides of your body evenly (e.g., side muscles, upper arms, shoulders, back muscles); helps increase agility in balance
How to execute: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold your arms out to the sides of your body. Lean your upper body to the left. Keep your hips straight and square. Hold for 5 seconds. Then, repeat to the right. Use slow, controlled motions. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat.
Exercise #10 Wall tilts
Purpose: helps correct the posture of the lower back; strengthens the pelvis and buttock muscles
How to execute: Stand against the wall unless the exercise is too difficult. In this case, sit down. Place a hand behind your back and try to straighten the back to touch the wall. Hold for 5 seconds. Then, relax your back and rest. Repeat.
Helpful Hints When Exercising
- Talk to your doctor before beginning the exercise routine.
- Make sure to take deep, controlled breaths as you do the exercises.
- Begin with shorter sets and increase the repetitions and number of sets as you progress; don’t overextend yourself.
- Try to keep your back straight at all times despite it not feeling “natural”.
- If you feel any pain, discontinue the exercise. If the pain persists, see your doctor.
- Try to enjoy the exercises as you will be more apt to continue with them. You might want to add your favorite music or exercise with a friend. Or treat yourself to a healthy drink or snack afterward.
Good posture is important for overall health and a better quality of life. By spending a short amount of time each day doing some simple posture exercises, you can improve your posture and reap many of these benefits.
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