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My posture has gotten absolutely horrible. I feel like I’m turning into Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. I’m hunching when I’m standing and sitting – I’m probably even doing it in my sleep. It is driving me up the wall. I have to constantly remind myself to suck in my gut and stand up straight.
I really don’t want to turn into a hunched old lady that scares little kids.
According to Dr. Steven P. Weiniger, author of the book Stand Taller, Live Longer: An Anti-Aging Strategy, “weak posture causes breathing problems, joint pain, difficulty walking, and may contribute to falls experienced by the elderly. If your posture is misaligned, your joints may become misaligned, and you’ll feel pain in them with every step.”
Posture is largely dependent on core strength. According to WebMD, you need to find exercises that will strengthen the following muscle groups.
- Rectus abdominis: The wide “six-pack” muscle runs vertically down your stomach. It’s used when you bend your spine forward.
- Obliques: The obliques run diagonally around your waist to rotate your torso. The internal obliques lie under the external obliques.
- Transverse abdominis: The deepest core muscles wrap around your waist like a corset and pull your abdomen inward and upward toward your spine. Exhale strongly and pull your stomach in, and you’ll feel these muscles working.
- Erector spinae: These back muscles extend your spine and prevent slouching.
For the last ten years, I’ve been rock climbing 1-2 days a week. Rock Climbing is an awesome core-building workout. Between the climbing and regular exercise, I’ve never had posture problems. Unfortunately, in the last 2-4 months, my climbing has been more sporadic.
I didn’t realize what a positive impact climbing and working out was having on my body until I stopped.
So I did what everyone else does when faced with a problem. I turned to Google.
Did you know that you can purchase torturous looking posture corrective braces that hold your body in the correct position?
I didn’t know either and quite frankly have no desire to wear a back brace for posture in the future.
I think I’ll work on the basics before resorting to self-torture.
According to the Mayo Clinic, when standing follow these tips:
- Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
- Pull in your abdomen
- Keep your feet about hip distance apart
- Balance your weight evenly on both feet.
- Let your hands hang naturally at your sides
- Try not to tile your head forward, backward or sideways
- Try to keep your knees relaxed and unlocked.
When sitting follow these tips:
- Choose a chair that allows you to rest both feet flat on the floor while keeping your knees level with your hips. If necessary, prop up your feet with a footstool or other support.
- Sit back in your chair. If the chair doesn’t support your lower back’s curve, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back.
- Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling, and tuck your chin in slightly.
- Keep your upper back and neck comfortably straight.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed — not elevated, rounded or pulled backward.
Once you’ve started to master the art of standing it is time to actually do some exercises.
I’m not a doctor and have a healthy respect for the misinformation that can be found on the internet, so follow any health plan with caution.
Listen to your body and if you have any hesitation consult a doctor immediately.
Below is a list of posture/back related exercise routines that I found. All of these have diagrams or pictures that clearly explain the various exercises and are from what I consider reputable sources.
- Shape – The perfect posture workout – Four easy exercises that can be done at home with basic equipment.
- Oprah – The posture exercise plan – Yes, she isn’t a doctor, but I’m assuming this was put together by someone like Dr. Oz.
- UCLA – Posture Strengthening Exercises – The pictures aren’t great on this site, but there are some great exercises and the descriptions are easy to follow.
- Huffington Post – Posture Exercises: 10 easy stretches for better posture – I’d recommend doing these stretches prior to any exercise routine.
I just started following some of these exercises a few days ago, but can already feel a difference in my body. My shoulders are straighter and I am naturally starting to stand and sit just a little bit straighter. I still have a long way to go, but little improvements inspire me to continue.
Other Resources that may interest you:
- Spine-Health.com – Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics – Great article on signs to watch for and basic steps for improvement.
- WebMD – Exercises for better posture – This article had a great list of exercises. I’m a kid at heart though and wish the article had pictures/diagram. I have a hard time mentally picturing some of the exercises.
On a total side note, I use my foam roller on a daily basis to loosen up my back. It is a very simple and easy way to loosen your muscles.
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