Most people would probably say that good posture is, well, a good thing. Aside from the fact that standing straight and tall is attractive, good posture has many benefits because bones and joints are kept in proper alignment.
- Reduced back pain
- Less stress and fatigue on the body
- Less stress on spinal joints
- Reduced risk of wearing down joints
Proper posture can be a challenge in our high-tech world that involves significant time sitting in front of a computer. Consider also the time spent on cell phones and tablets, which encourages users to hunch over with head bent over small screens. These days it takes effort to form new habits and train the body to sit, stand and lift in positions that support the spine and put less stress on the supporting muscles.
Some good posture habits simply require reminding yourself to sit or stand with shoulders back or to lift with your legs and not your back. In some cases, however, people may struggle with proper positioning because of weakness or injury, especially involving the core. Focusing on exercises that strengthen the core muscles is a great way to begin the process of improving posture.
Committing to an exercise program or joining a class can make it easier to form a new habit. Yoga and Pilates, which have become extremely popular at fitness centers and in at-home programs, are perfect for targeting core strengthening. The following exercises are great for getting started:
- Single leg extension (targets core) – On your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor, hands behind your head, press your low back into the floor and curl your head up off the floor. Pulling your navel in toward your spine, bring one knee to your chest and extend your other leg straight out off the floor. Keep your abs tight and your low back on the floor. Switch legs. Start with five to 10 on each side.
- Yoga Sit-up (targets rectus abdominus, obliques and transverse abdominus) – On your back, legs straight, feet flexed, arms overhead on the floor, low back pressed to the floor. Pulling your navel in toward your spine, roll up slowly, first bringing your arms off the floor, then shoulders and head, one vertebra at a time to a sitting position. Roll back down one vertebra at a time, then repeat three to five times.
- Crossover (targets core) – On your back, hands behind your head, chest lifted off floor, knees pulled to chest, low back pressed to floor. Pulling your navel in toward your spine, bring one knee to your chest while extending your other leg straight, reaching the opposite elbow to bent knee. Switch legs, pulling the other knee to chest while extending your other leg straight, reaching the opposite elbow to bent knee. Repeat five to 10 times.
- Back Extension (targets slouching by strengthening low back) – On your stomach with palms flat on floor below shoulders, legs extended straight back with tops of feet pressed to floor. Pulling abs in, lengthen the spine and slowly lift your head and chest off the floor using your back muscles without pressing into arms. Keep neck muscles relaxed. Slowly lower back down and repeat three to five times.
- Plank (targets obliques, transverse abdominus, shoulders and back) – On hands with arms straight and palms under shoulders (or on forearms for greater intensity), legs extended back, toes tucked under. Pulling abs in, keep back straight and eyes on floor, holding this position until fatigued. Rest one minute and repeat.
If you are uncertain about your body strength or condition, or your pain is significant, it is wise to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Often an exercise program in conjunction with chiropractic care can bring great relief from neck and back pain.
For more tips on good habits for improving posture or for treatment that can free you from back and neck pain, visit Cheatle Chiropractic, or click here for details on appointment and care options.