May is National Correct Posture Month, so take a look at how hours of computer hunching, slouching while cell phone texting and video-game slumping is affecting your posture. It’s not just kids with backpacks or cane-carrying seniors—studies show poor posture is a major cause of back and neck pain for all ages, and over time often contributes to digestive and cardiopulmonary problems. The good news: there are easy things people can do to strengthen posture.
Take a Posture Picture
The first step to improving posture is finding out what your posture looks like. Dr. Steven Weiniger, author of Stand Taller~Live Longer, An Anti-Aging Strategy: 10 Minutes a Day to Keep Your Body Active and Pain-Free, suggests this easy way to check your posture with any digital camera:
Have a friend take 3 pictures of you: from the front, back, and side. Stand straight and tall when they take the picture, with what feels like good posture (No looking in a mirror to cheat!). Print out the pictures, one to a sheet. Next, put a dot between your feet on the front and back view, and on your ankle on the side view, and then fold each paper in half vertically, neatly at the dot.
FRONT & BACK VIEW: The two halves of your body should be the same. If your head and/or torso is off to one side, or your arms are hanging differently (one hand is lower or further from the body than the other), your posture is not symmetrical.
SIDE VIEW: The line from your ankle should pass thru your shoulder and ear. If your head is way forward of that line, you may have a posture distortion called Forward Head Posture (FHP).
File your posture picture where you can find it. Next year take another posture picture to note any changes.
Do Posture Strengthening Exercises
All exercise is not created equal. Exercising with poor posture can train you to stand and move poorly. Yoga, Tai-Chi and Pilates are all great for building body awareness and control. According to Dr. Weiniger, a smart way to exercise efficiently and get the most out of any workout is with a pre-exercise “Posture Break” to set your internal baseline. Before taking a walk or hitting the gym Dr. Weiniger recommends these posture strengthening exercises:
STORK- Train yourself to stand tall while building good posture by balancing on one foot. First, stand tall with your best posture, and then keep straight as you lift your thigh so your knee is at hip height. Keep standing tall for 30 seconds on each side, focusing on keeping your body well aligned.
WALLSTAND- Back up to a wall so your heels, buttocks, shoulders and head all lightly touch the wall while you keep everything level, relaxed and aligned– and take 3 slow breaths, feeling your body’s best posture. Note: If you feel any areas of stress, get your posture checked by a professional.
Choose Smart Posture Habits
Get a good chair, and change it’s position during the day. If you’re going to play video-games, exercise more than your thumbs with games that make you move such as the Nintendo Wii or the new motion sensing Xbox Natal. Invest in quality shoes, and consider using a shoe insert or orthotic, especially if you’ve had foot or knee problems.
If you have back pain, neck soreness, or other posture problems— or want to find out how strengthening your posture can improve sports performance (ie golf, tennis, baseball) and wellness– help is available. Consult a Certified Posture Exercise Professional, chiropractor, physical therapist or massage therapist trained to assess posture and teach individualized exercise routines for pain management and wellness.
Your posture is how the world sees you, and a bit of effort at strengthening your posture is an anti-aging habit to make you look and feel better, avoid injury and exercise effectively to stay active and age well.
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Renee North is a Certified Posture Exercise Professional (CPEP) and personal trainer (NASM) who has trained thousands of professionals how to keep their patients and clients moving well with StrongPosture exercises. She is a senior editor for BodyZone.com, an online wellness resource which offers a national directory of posture professionals.
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