Straighten Up with 3 Simple Exercises for Posture
I've been very conscious of posture lately, mainly because I see so many people who could improve theirs. A combination of tight muscles, stiff joints and lack of awareness takes a toll on posture and adds years to one's appearance. When a dancer friend of mine was complimented on his posture, he said, "It's not by accident. I work on it all the time."
Personally, I've also worked on improving my posture over the years. You have to ingrain good habits while the musculoskeletal system (your muscles and bones) can respond to the training. Over time, the elasticity of tendons, ligaments and joints decreases, making it harder to change established patterns. The spine is one of the areas most vulnerable to osteoporosis. If the vertebral bones weaken and fracture, it can cause a permanent kyphosis or rounding of the mid-back.
Some small movements remind me to straighten up as I go about each day. Try this "growing exercise": Take a deep breath, filling the belly with air, and gradually lengthen the spine as you lift the top of your head to the ceiling. Think of elongating through the torso, stretching the space between the ribs and the hips, decompressing the spine. Fluff up the chest by drawing the air up into the chest cavity. As you exhale, hold the height and stay tall.
To strengthen the muscles of the mid back, do "Ws": Hold your arms out to your sides with the elbows bent to form a "W". Inhale, then squeeze the shoulder blades down and together as you slowly let your breath out. Repeat 10 times daily. Retraining comes through repetition.
Do a back extension to strengthen the muscles that run the length of your spine so you stand taller and straighter. The movement of arching backward also improves mobility in the upper and middle back. Standing or sitting, place your hands on your buttocks below your waist. Take a deep breath and lengthen the torso. Exhale and lift the chest up as you pull your elbows toward each other, causing the upper back to arch slightly. Release back to center and repeat 5-10 times.
You can easily do these exercises any time, any where. They're perfect to do while working at a desk. Do them often, whenever you think of them and always remember to keep a mental image of yourself standing tall.
Next week I'll share one of my favorite floor exercises for posture.