by Li’l Dan Celdran, ACSM Health Fitness Specialist
Having poor posture can lead to problems like neck pain, back pain, reduction in air supply, muscle weakness and imbalance. Just one cause demonstrates why. When one’s shoulders are forward and upper back rounded, muscles become overworked to counterbalance the pull of gravity on the forward head.
Some contributors to poor posture are:
1) Sitting too long. We were built to move. Stand up when you can; stretch hourly.
2) Tilting your head while talking on the phone, texting, etc.
3) Slouching. Sit up straight and align the ears, shoulders, and hips in one vertical line.
4) Wearing heavy backpacks or purses, especially worn over the same shoulder. Opt for straps that can be worn over both shoulders.
5) Reaching too far forward. Constantly reaching forward with your arms pull your shoulders and head forward. Place items like your phone and office supplies closer to you instead.
6) Bending forward while for example, brushing teeth or lifting things from floor. The muscles around your hips are the biggest and most powerful in your body, so always hinge (push back) from the hips when bending forward, while keeping your weight toward your heels to activate the muscles that protect the natural “S” curve of your spine from turning into a “C” curve that ruins your posture.
7) Having tight front shoulder and chest muscles. The pectoralis major (chest) muscle helps with rotating the shoulders, throwing and breathing. Because it is a very thick muscle, it can easily become tight if you hunch forward or overuse the pectoralis muscles during exercise. If you find it hard to sit up straight, your chest muscles may be tight without causing acute pain. All you need is a door frame for this easy chest stretch (shown), and here’s how:
- Position your elbows below your shoulder level. With your forearms at a 90 degree angle to your arms, place your hands firmly against the outside of the door frame.
- Step forward with your right leg, keeping your arms firmly on the door. You should feel a pull in your pectoralis muscle between your shoulders and your chest.
- Breathing normally, hold for 30 to 90 seconds, depending upon the severity of tightness in your muscle.
- Step back, returning to the original position. Move your elbows up to shoulder level. Repeat this stretch in the morning and evening.
Physical therapists and fitness instructors can give you specific exercises to help strengthen weak muscles that affect your posture. Yoga, water exercises, pull-ups, pull-downs, rows, dead-lifts and reverse flys with dumbbells, stability ball exercises, back extensions, planks and bridges will all help strengthen postural muscles. I’ve found some fun and effective exercises online here and here.
Here are some exercises you may try (per doctor’s approval):
Hold the position for 15-60 seconds while maintaining control and breathing normally. Next lift one foot off the ground and hold. Challenging, I know! Now lift the other foot. The fun never stops.
Ladies, Get a Bra-Fitting
I recently visited a la mode Intimates in Annapolis for a free bra fitting; I’ve read that most women don’t realize they are wearing the wrong size. According to a la mode professionals, Patti Platt and Rebecca Ulrich-Dodson, the complete bra fitting experience is about finding the right bra and the right fit, not just the right bra size because “a woman’s bra size will change many times throughout her life and your local bra fitters can be a useful ally in finding the best possible bra for your unique body. Neglecting your breast health can lead to physical discomfort.”
Getting a professional fit annually will ensure you’re wearing the right size for maximum support and lift (especially when your breasts are heavy and dense, like mine. My mother’s, on the other hand (or chest), are light and fluffy. We compare every time we are together!). When I wear the correct bra, I sit up straight and can breathe more deeply.
I have been working on improving my posture, and here’s how:
- I limit my time using the computer.
- I exercise my back, shoulders and core muscles.
- I stand/walk around when I can.
- I have also found that regular chiropractor adjustments, massage and daily stretching very helpful.
Using good posture not only looks great, it also boosts confidence. So straighten up and start reaping the benefits of proper posture!
“Li’l” Dan Celdran has been working in the fitness industry for over 17 years. She holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from the the University of MD and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health Fitness Specialist. She currently works as a fitness (personal trainer) at GAFC.