you’d rather not be someone who is hunched over, walks slow, and has chronic
joint pain, then stand up straight! More specifically, start working on your
posture, which, it turns out, is as important as your mother said it was.
your body in proper alignment, improving your balance, and maintaining that
alignment as you move are all part of what we call "good posture."
When those things are out of whack, says Steven P. Weiniger, D.C., author of
Stand Taller, Live Longer: An Anti-Aging Strategy, the health risks are great.
your head is pulled forward, your torso is rolling forward and your chest caves
in,” he says. “You can’t take a deep breath. Studies have shown that
people with weak posture are more likely to have incidents of cardiovascular and
pulmonary issues.” In a study of women in particular, he says, women whose
heads were pushed forward (instead of lined up over their torsos) were 1.4 times
more likely to die than those whose posture was aligned correctly. This is
probably because the heart is pumping harder to get blood out of a collapsed
chest, Weiniger says.
posture (Weiniger prefers that term over "bad" posture) can cause
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. Plus, people
with posture problems look older than their upright counterparts. If you spot a
former ballet dancer, for example, even in her 80s, she seems to glide as she
walks compared with some of her plodding counterparts.
To Improve Your Posture
out we are not born with poor posture. Rather, we train ourselves to have it.
Sitting hunched over a desk or slumping in our easy chairs does not do a body
good. However, you can improve your posture in as little as a couple of weeks,
according to Weiniger, by retraining yourself to proper posture. Once you’ve
achieved better balance and alignment, continue to practice these exercises to
maintain your new and improved posture (once you get muscles, you don’t stop
going to the gym, he points out.)
someone take a picture of you from three angles: in front, behind, and from the
side. Your head and neck should be centered over your torso. Your forehead
should not enter the room before your chest, Weiniger says. Nor should your
backside stick way out behind you. Notice if one hand hangs lower than the other
or if one hip is higher than another. As much as possible, try to correct these
imbalances before you begin. (For help with this, try Posturezone, a free app
for IPads and IPhones, which will assess your posture from pictures you
note these postural problems, adjust your stance so your body is more in
line—head over neck over torso over pelvis over legs. Then you are ready to
begin the exercises, but as always, before beginning an exercise program, check
with your doctor:
Stand near a wall or better yet, in a doorway. Adjust your posture. Then raise
one leg, bending at the knee so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold
that position for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Do NOT flail your arms
or twist and splay your body in an effort to stay balanced. If you feel that you
cannot hold the pose, then reach out to the wall or doorway to steady yourself.
Over time you’ll be able to hold the pose without gripping the wall.
exercise trains your muscles to help you balance better, and balance involves
achieving symmetry of muscle control, Weiniger says. The goal of balancing on
one leg then the other is to awaken those muscles and guide them toward
Put your heels against the wall, and then step out about the length of your foot
away from the wall. Now lean back until your buttocks and back touch the wall.
Push your head back, keeping it level until it touches the wall. Most people,
Weiniger notes, will have to tilt their chin up in order to get the backs of
their heads against the wall. That is not the kind of posture you want. If you
cannot get your head back without tilting it, push it back as far as it will go
while staying level. Hold it there for 20 seconds. In time, you should improve
your alignment enough so your head will reach the wall.
posture - head
over torso over pelvis - is actually controlled by small muscles in your core.
This exercise challenges those small muscles to guide your posture to better
alignment. When you slowly lean back to the wall, you are training your muscles
to remember that posture alignment and pull it into place when you are doing
other activities, according to Weiniger.
in Movement: Using
a balance ball (those large inflatable balls often found in gyms), sit down with
your knees at a 90-degree angle. (Weiniger says most people will be comfortable
with a 75-centimeter ball—but be sure it is an “anti-bust” ball.
in your best strong posture, and keeping your knees, torso, and head still, use
your pelvis to move the ball in circles. First try three circles toward the left
and then three circles to the right. “Most people want to do these circles
fast, but don’t. You want to move slowly and smoothly, letting your breath
drive the motion of the exercise,” Weiniger says, so that you can fire the
neglected muscle fibers in your core to assist with strong posture.
are usually surprised at the difference between going to the left versus going
to the right,” Weiniger says. “They think they are moving with symmetry, but
when they slow it down and focus they can see the lack of smoothness of
motion…and the difference from left to right. You can see the imbalance in
your body. The goal again is finding and training unused muscle fibers, and