By Rhiannon Sweeney (our fabulous UWA prac student)
Having good posture is very important, it makes you look fitter, healthier, confident and allows for efficient movement in everyday life, however very few people have perfect posture. When you are poorly aligned it will cause stiffness, back and neck pain, muscular imbalances and an increased risk of injury due to the joints in your body not fitting together as well as they should.
Good posture requires the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles to be in a vertical line with one another. Better posture can be achieved by performing a few basic stretching and strengthening exercises each day (2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise). These are best done in the morning so your core is activated and your body is aligned for the rest of the day.
Step 1 – Strengthen your core. This will significantly help people with lower-back pain. Your core is comprised of many different muscles and if any of these are weak other muscles will have to compensate resulting in an imbalance, stiffness and pain. Simple core strengthening exercises include single leg raises, crunches (not full sit ups) and twisting crunches.
Step 2 – Stretch. Most jobs today involve forward reaching motions, for example typing on a computer, driving, even playing some sports such as hockey. This constant forward reaching causes tightness in the hips and chest. You can alleviate this stiffness by placing you forearm vertically at a 90-degree angle against a doorway and moving forward until you feel a stretch in your chest. A standing quad stretch or a lunge will stretch the hip flexors. Hold each stretch for 10-30s on each side.
Step 3 – Level your hips. Anterior pelvic tilt (swayback) is a common postural problem in people who spend most of their day sitting. It is the result of weak glutes, hamstrings and abs and tightness in the hip flexors. These muscles can be strengthened by simple exercises such as squats, lunges, walking up stairs and walking uphill, along with the abdominal exercises mentioned in step 1.
Step 4 – Strengthen your upper back. This will naturally pull your shoulders back, open your chest and prevent hunched shoulders caused by spending hours at a desk or watching television. This can be achieved by performing rows with a resistance band, ensuring you are squeezing your shoulder blades together when you pull back.
Step 5 –Retract your head. The position of you head and neck are essential for good posture, the muscles in your neck need to be strong enough to hold your head so your ears are in a rough vertical line with your shoulders. This can be achieved through simple retraction exercises, for example while driving or sitting in a high office chair push your head back into the headrest for a few seconds and then release, repeat every few minutes. This will strengthen the muscles at the back of the neck, decreasing neck pain caused by muscular imbalances.
So align, strengthen up, stretch out and sit tall!!