Good Posture. Good Function. Good Health.
“Stand up straight!” How many times have you heard those words in your life? Chances are the answer is a lot. Most of us accept that good posture is important, (see “Why it Matters” below), but often we’re more likely to notice someone else’s postural shortcomings than sense our own. Even when we make an adjustment, such as bringing our shoulders further back, typically they drift right back to where they were as soon as we stop paying attention. What’s a well-intentioned person to do?
The answer is paradoxically simple and complex and requires a whole-body approach. Here is a step-by-step guide to improving your posture:
Step 1 – The Test
Stand against a wall with your heels, buttocks and shoulder blades (or mid back) all touching the wall. If the back of your head touches the wall without straining or tipping your head back, read no further -your posture is great! But for many people, this is not the case. To gauge how far your head is from the wall, place your fingers between the back of your head and the wall. The number of fingers is your measurement. Make a mental note of where you are right now.
Step 2 – The “Posture Sequence” Exercise
Lie on the floor with your legs straight and your arms along your sides, palms up.
Head Press: Press the back of your head directly down into the floor. Hold this for a count of 5. Slowly release and repeat 4 more times.
Shoulder Press: Press both shoulders and shoulder blades into the floor. Feel how your shoulder blades move closer together. Hold for a count of 5. Slowly release and repeat 4 more times.
Buttock Squeeze: Tighten both buttock muscles. Notice how your hips come a little away from the floor. Hold this for a count of 5. Slowly release and repeat 4 more times.
Knee Press: Press the backs of your knees (at the same time) down into the floor as you simultaneously point your toes in the direction of the ceiling. Again, hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
Re-cap: Each area in the sequence is worked individually. This is not a cumulative exercise. Each is held for 5 counts and repeated 5 times. Remember not to hold your breath! Build up the force you’re able to exert in each area gradually, never doing more than feels safe – and good!
Step 3 – The Secret Sauce
The key to improving and maintaining your new and improved posture is found above your neck! Body awareness, patience and consistency of practice, practice, practice are all a critical part of this process. Try to self-correct frequently throughout the day, but please leave the judgment and critiquing aside. Change and improvement will come. Cultivate your ability to listen to the wisdom of your body, and remember that it is never, ever too late to learn something new and benefit from the process of trying.
Why It Matters
Clinical research shows that well aligned posture:
- strengthens your bones
- helps build a stronger core
- helps decrease the abnormal wear of joint surfaces
- improves your balance and can help prevent falls
- improves digestion
- helps you breathe more fully
- contributes to confidence, positive mood and feeling of well-being
- reduces stress levels
Blog Post Contributor: Joanne P. Fagerstrom, PT, CFP
Joanne Fagerstrom, owner of Mindful Physical Therapy, has been a physical therapist since 1978 and has been helping people build stronger bones in both one-on-one sessions and group classes in her studio in Wyndmoor, PA since 2010. Joanne began to focus her work on bone health because she was able to reverse her own diagnosis of osteoporosis through diet and exercise. Her experience led her to share her what she learned with others.
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