Good posture is a necessary component of good health. It is needed to keep your organs in place so they can work efficiently. For example, if you have sway back, your intestines press against the floor of your abdominal cavity, instead of being held in place. Slouching when standing or sitting makes it difficult for your lungs to work at their best.
When you have good posture, your muscles are in balance and your body is symmetrical. When your posture ia not good, it is usually due to a lack of muscle strength to hold your body in the needed position. For example, weak muscles of the lower back are the main culprits in not being able to mantain an erect trunk in standing and walking.
In older women osteoporosis and spinal fractures plus muscle weakness, cause muscle imbalances, which can eventually affect locomotion. Recent studies indicate that women who had a pronounced “Dowagers Hump” could improve their posture by strengthening the upper back muscles and stretching the tight chest muscles. These types of exercises also simultaneously contribute to increasing bone mass. In the strength workout I recommend, there are several exercises which help strengthen the muscles used to maintain posture.
Most of us do not know how our bodies look to others. I suggest you get a friend or family member -one who is not afraid to tell you the truth-and have them check your posture. Ideally from a back view the spine should have no lateral curvature and the legs should be symmetrical. To check your own posture, stand in front of a mirror and check to see if your ears, shoulders and hips are level.
From a side view the spine should form an S-shaped curve, bisected by an imaginary plumb line dropped from the top of the head through the center of gravity of the body. This line should pass through the tip of the shoulder, the center of the hip joint and ankle joint and slightly behind the knee joint.
To check your standing posture, stand with your back against a wall. Relax your shoulders and pull in your chin. Tighten your abdomen and buttocks. Press your back against the wall, leaving room for your hand to fit flat behind the curve of your lower back. Head, shoulders, upper back and buttocks should comfortably touch the wall.
To maintain good posture as you stand, keep your feet parallel about hip width apart. Distribute your weight equally on both feet. Bend the knees slightly. Pull your buttocks in and under and hold your abdomen in. Hold your chest up and slightly forward. Hold your head erect with your chin pulled in slightly.
Sitting is where most of us get into trouble with poor postural habits—especially when driving or using a computer. We tend to protrude the head and neck forward and the spine tends to round forward as well. Then the weight of the head and upper body is no longer balanced over the spinal column but instead must be supported by making muscles work hard and by stretching spinal ligaments. This leads to fatigue and pain in the neck and upper back.
A good sitting position is like that for standing except the buttocks and upper thighs become the base of support on the chair and the knees are bent. Practice sitting without crossing your legs at the knees because that position interferes with proper circulation of blood in the feet and legs. The S-shaped curvature of your spine should be maintained in sitting as well. To do this, sit all the way back in a straight-backed chair and place a folded towel or small pillow in the arch of your lower back. Keep your knees apart because keeping knees close together makes you prone to slumping. Chair and desk arrangement should be such that your forearms rest on the desk with your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
Sitting can create higher pressure within the disks because when standing, your body weight is distributed over muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. When you sit down, however, your abdomen relaxes, which causes your body weight to place pressure on the disks.
Good posture makes you feel good. Because of its many benefits, such as ease of movement, good balance of muscle strength and flexibility, proper positioning of the spine and proper functioning of the internal organs, your body feels good and you therefore feel good.
One of the main reasons for developing poor posture is weak muscles, so I suggest you do a strengthening workout twice a week to keep your muscles strong. It’s never too late to work on improving your posture.
My book Over 40 & Gettin’ Stronger contains an easy-to-do strength workout. It now includes an audio CD with every copy so you can hear me give you instructions while you do the exercises. To receive a copy, send a check for $19.95 plus $4 shipping to Fitness Press, P O Box 4912, Marietta, GA. http://www.StrongOver40.com
Phyllis Rogers is a senior citizen certified as a Specialist in Senior Fitness and as a Certified Fitness Traineer. She has taught over 1500 strength classes for older adults and can be reached at email@example.com . Neither Senior Fitness, Inc. or Phyllis Rogers is liable for any injuries sustained during or after doing any exercise described in this article.