I remember being a teenage girl and always hearing ‘Andrea! Stand up straight!’ from my parents, teachers and coaches. To say I had poor posture was an understatement. I think young girls are shy about getting taller, so in turn do everything they can to appear shorter. Now as an adult I pride myself on standing strong – both physically and figuratively. But that’s not to say every so often I don’t find myself hunched over in front of my computer. I try to do ‘posture checks’ to make sure my shoulders are back, my chest is out and my backbone is straight. Believe me – it’s rare that I am sitting straight these days.
I recently received an email from a 55-year old woman who has been reading our blog and let me know that as she has grown older and had a few health challenges along her journey, she has found her posture to be suffering. As our muscle mass decreases as we age, our posture tends to decline which can cause chronic pain. According to Dr. Michael Gleiber, MD, there are three major reasons why people start to hunch over as they age. These reasons are osteoporosis, wedge compression fractures, and spinal stenosis. But poor posture doesn’t mean you have one of these three issues. In fact, posture can be improved by a few simple exercises and stretches throughout the day, and strengthening you core.
1. Shoulder Rolls –Bringing your shoulders up to your ears and slowly rolling them back while you push your chest forward. Repeat ten times, three times per day.
2. Chest Stretch – my massage therapist always recommends this one to be done at least five times per day. Simply raise your arms to your sides, palms facing forward, keeping your elbows straight and your arms completely level at shoulder height. Next, bring your arms backwards so that you are bringing your shoulder blades together. It will be a very slight change but you should feel a stretch across your chest muscles and through your upper back.
3. Wall Sits – this is a great reminder on how to keep our spine straight. Sit with your backbone against the wall, your knees at a 90-degree angle, and your feet shoulder width apart. Try to hold this for thirty seconds, three times a day. Be mindful of how your body feels when your spine is straight.
4. Standing Side Bends – this one is great with or without weights. Remember when you were a kid and used to sing the song “I’m a little teacup”? It is the same movement! Simply keep your feet shoulder width apart and your hips squared. Bend 10 times to your right, squeezing your oblique muscles each time. Repeat on the left side.
5. Kneeling Quad and Hip Stretch – for this one, I would suggest putting a mat under your knee that is on the ground, and doing it beside a wall for balance. Put your right leg in front with your knee bent and your foot flat on the ground. Your left leg behind with your knee on the ground and your left toes pointed. Next, ever so slightly push your left hip flexor forward. This will give you a stretching feeling throughout your hip. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
The other major piece to bettering your posture is strengthening your core. Taking yoga or Pilate’s class at one of Winnipeg’s exceptional studios is a great way to help with all of this. But if going to the gym or workouts at home is more your style, here are a few sample core workouts you can add to your regime.
20 Criss Crosses (each leg for a total of 50)
20 Cross Over Crunches (each side)
20 Flutter Kicks
20 Heel Touches (each side)
20 Bicycle Crunches
30 Second Plank
20 Windshield Wipers
20 Full Sit Ups
20 Russian Twists
20 Leg Raises
20 Oblique Crunches (each side)
20 Pelvic Thrusts
20 Bicycle Crunches
With all of the above routines, repeat 2 to 3 times if your fitness level allows it. And with all of the above recommendations, consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting on any new exercise routines to ensure your health and safety is always top of mind.