Sunday, October 12, 2008

Posture and Exercise

I was reading a story about the importance of our posture and thought it was important information that bears repeating.
Bad posture contributes to arthritis, muscle pain and injuries that can be avoided by proper posture, or at least minimized. Bad posture also make your clothes not fit correctly.

In our lives today, we aren't required to get off our butts and move around to finish a task. We spend hours in front of a computer at work, then go home, and sit for a few more hours in front of our home computer! When we do move around, it's generally in a repetitive movement that doesn't use all our muscles or a full range of motion. Certain muscles get strong while others get weaker. We lose correct alignment.

What Is BAD POSTURE? A rounded back and/or shoulders, A pelvis that is tilted too far forward or backward, Too much or too little curve in the lower back, A head that droops or protrudes too far forward, A shoulder, hip or other body part that is higher or more forward than the same part on the other side of the body, A foot, knee or ankle that points to one side.

Some of us are born with alignment issues, some have issues due to injuries in our younger lives, and some of us are just too lazy to make sure we sit up straight with our shoulders back! (Which also helps you breathe better by the way!)

There are a few exercises that strengthen and stretch unique muscles in the body that hold us upright and stable. These muscles usually aren't worked by standard aerobic or strength-training exercises. You should do these exercises at least every other day, in addition to your usual aerobic, stretching, and strength training regimen.

The recommended exercises:

Groin Stretch
Purpose: Stretches and aligns the groin muscles. Over time, it will align your hips and allow your shoulders and back to return to a more anatomically correct position.
What you need: A chair, coffee table or ottoman that is the right height so that when you lie on the floor on your back, one leg can rest on top of the object and form an approximate 90-degree angle.
What to do: Lie on your back, bend your left leg and place it on top of your "platform." Your left calf muscle should be resting on the platform. Stretch your right leg straight out on the floor, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Place your arms out to the sides, palms up. Rest in this pose for five minutes, allowing gravity to do the work, relaxing the body and letting the muscles stretch. Repeat with your right leg.

Table Stretch
Purpose: Counteracts the tendency to hunch and roll shoulders forward.
What you need: A table, desk, counter or back of a chair.
What to do: Stand a few feet from the table, with feet hip-width apart and pointing straight ahead. Lean forward and rest your hands, palms down, on the table so that your legs and torso form a 90-degree angle. Relax. Let your head fall forward between your shoulders, and let gravity do the work. Hold for one to two minutes.

Cats and Dogs
Purpose: Increases flexibility and movement in the pelvis and lower back.
What you need: A carpet, exercise mat or other comfortable floor surface.
What to do: Get on your hands and knees so that your back forms a small table. Place your hands directly below your shoulders, fingers pointing forward. Knees should be in line with your hips. Exhale and slowly arch your back upward like a cat, pressing your chin toward your chest. Hold for five seconds.
Then arch in the opposite direction (the way dogs do when they stretch), pulling your head and neck upward and your upper and lower back downward and lifting your buttocks into the air. Hold for five seconds. Smoothly transition from "cat" to "dog" for 10 complete cycles.

Face the Wall
Purpose: Stretches and aligns the muscles of the chest, shoulders and pelvis.
What you need: A wall.
What to do: Stand facing the wall with feet hip-width apart, toes turned inward and touching (pigeon-toed). Your chest and nose should almost touch the wall.
Lift your arms straight above your head, shoulder-width apart. Place the backs of your hands on the wall. Hold for one minute, eventually working up to three minutes. You will feel a stretch in your pelvis and shoulders.
At first you only may be able to reach the wall with the sides of your hands. As your muscles align and stretch, you will be able to work up to reaching the wall with the backs of your hands.
Helpful: This may be uncomfortable at first, but after a minute your shoulders will begin to relax.

I did, and will continue to do, these exercises. They aren't hard and don't take a massive amount of strength to complete them. Good luck!

No comments: