POSTURE. The very word made you sit up straighter, didn’t it? (It’s like I can see you, I know…)
Posture gets a bad rap because it’s one of those things mom and dad hammered home when you were a kid, among:
Okay, maybe that last one was specific to my family. Still.
And, lastly of course, “Sit up straight, or you’ll look like Quasimodo.”
Back then, we didn’t know anything about this Quasimodo character. We just knew he wasn’t someone we should be emulating.
Slouching became a form of passive-aggressive rebellion, a small way to get back at your parents for not letting you set fire to the living room couch. I’ll show them! Your teenage brain ranted.
While this tactic may have less impact than watching firemen putting out a five-alarm blaze in your living room, it was still a somewhat satisfying rebellious act.
Keep in mind, too, that this was way back (insert spinning hourglass here) before Smartphones and other devices that currently have us looking down so much a new term, “tech neck,” evolved to describe the resulting pain of this chronically poor head position.
After the age of 50, most of us have gained some wisdom and are (hopefully) past those early rebellious years. Now, we can blame our high-tech lifestyles and sitting at a desk all day typing blog posts like this.
Sitting hunched over a desk not only ages you, but it wreaks havoc with your body in other surprising ways.
For one, you’re at higher risk of rotator cuff injury. These stabilizing shoulder muscles become more at risk with age through normal wear and tear as it is. Toss in poor posture, and the rolled-forward position of the shoulder joint and it speeds up the process.
To make matters worse, if you perform exercises from a misaligned posture — and if you’re in the habit you may not know you’re doing it — you put yourself at a higher risk of injury in general.
Plus, a curved spine pooches out your stomach and makes you look older.
Yikes and double yikes.
Good posture, on the other hand, pulls everything up and in, keeps shoulders safe — and yes, makes you appear thinner.
I was reminded of this when I spoke to Kay Hunter, an image consultant, recently as part of my Ageless Army membership offerings. She talked about the way certain patterns, accessories and styles added or subtracted pounds and then said, “The best and fastest way to look instantly look 5 lbs thinner is to improve your posture!”
The key to making it stick: consistency.
SURPRISE! It’s that word again.
In full transparency, I have a special vested interest in this topic.
Years ago, I had back pain so severe I was told I needed to see a chronic pain specialist.
I decided to visit a physical therapist who specialized in postural issues instead. Long story short (unlike my blogs, I know…) through a series of specifically prescribed postural exercises, I eliminated my back pain. For good.
That was about 10 years ago, and I’ve been fine very since.
Keep in mind, however, it took two months of daily stretching (the therapist made me commit to daily stretching or, it would be a “waste of time and money”) before I found relief.
Now a couple simple stretches EVERY NIGHT keeps my back pain-free. Therein lies my motivation.
Since the specialist geared stretches to address my particular issues (I had major imbalances), they may not be relevant to you.
Aside from strengthening the postural muscles, you also need to simply become aware of when you’re slouching.
I recently saw a new device you stick between your shoulder blades that alerts you when your posture starts to fail. I don’t know how the device “alerts” you if it’s by electrical shock (hope not) like a dog collar, if it sends you a text message, or if someone runs up behind you and smacks you on the back if your shoulders roll forward.
(If you’ve tried any type of postural reminder app or device, please let me know below.)
Either way, I’m waiting until they get the bugs out of the system in case it burns a crop circle like ring in the center of my back.
And, although exercises to strengthen your back would help, the problem often lies in shortened chest muscles, which pull you forward. So by stretching out these muscles you allow for better posture.
First, a couple general posture tips:
— Imagine a string connects you from the top of your head up towards the ceiling. (I’d stop short of actually doing this, unless you want your coworkers/family to seek other surroundings.) Standing sideways, your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankles should all align.
— Keep your head up when walking or sitting, as if balancing a dish of ice cream on your head, a pile of eyeshadow palettes, or the traditional stack of books. Whatever works.
In addition, include these into your week routine…
1. Stretch out over a foam roller: Lie on a 36-inch foam roller, with the roller fully supporting your spine. Bring your arms out and to the sides, and allow the weight of your arms to stretch out your chest. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades around the roller. Hold 30 seconds. (This may be done daily.)
NOTE: THIS IS A SAMPLE VIDEO FROM THE AGELESS ARMY, my monthly membership, which is not available on YouTube… click HERE for more info!
2. Seated rows: focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together while keeping your shoulders down (don’t shrug!)
3. Superman: retract your shoulder blades as you lift up arms and legs
How about you? Do YOU work on your posture? Do you have any tips that work great? Let me know in the comments section below…
Other posts you may enjoy:
Got questions or comments for my eyes and ears only? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to respond!
Your Ageless Body Coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.