As we age, we inevitably experience a variety of degenerative processes that, left unchecked, have a negative effect on how we look, feel and function. The occurrence of these physical problems stems from poor posture which is the secret performance weapon most individuals ignore.
Without a state of balance in the body, which is the definition of posture, you won’t be able to reach your full potential in any activity, plus there’s a good chance you’ll injure yourself trying. Poor posture is a prevalent problem among seniors and becoming increasingly more common in middle-age adults.
There are many probable causes for tissue damage in the lower back and upper back and neck areas. It is unlikely that any simple or single solution will successfully remediate or prevent all such problems. Nonetheless, two related factors are typically identified as major contributors to dysfunction and discomfort in the spinal area. Both of these predisposing factors, muscle weakness and poor posture, are associated with sedentary lifestyles. Unfortunately, these common problems appear to be additive, as muscle weakness can lead to poor posture and poor posture can lead to muscle weakness.
Research has demonstrated that properly performed strength training can reduce or even eliminate lower back pain in a large percentage of patients. While there is less research regarding discomfort in the upper back and neck regions, it is logical to assume that greater muscle strength and better body posture should be beneficial.
Research was done to determine whether a basic program of strength, endurance and stretching exercises could improve posture, increase standing height, and reduce discomfort in the spinal column. Each study subject was carefully assessed before and after the 10-week training period for body-weight, body composition, standing height and head position. Although the participants did not significantly change their weight, they did achieve body composition improvements. Significant improvements in posture were made as well as their standing height increased by 0.2 inches and their head position improved by 0.4 inches.
Based on these research results, it would appear that a basic program of strength, endurance, and stretching exercise can be effective for replacing muscle, decreasing fat, increasing standing height and improving head position. Just as important, written comments from participants included noticeable improvements in personal posture, reduced neck and upper back discomfort, and less lower back pain.
Poor balance is a condition that can lead to considerable pain and disability resulting from a fall. And while there are many physiological and neurological factors that affect our balance, perhaps none is more foundational than strong muscles.
Another study was done using the same training protocol as the posture study to determine whether it could improve standing balance as well. The results came back with the same positive improvements. Participants improved their balance score by 50 percent, increasing their single leg stand from 8.6 seconds to 12.9 seconds.
Based on these research findings, better posture and balance can be added to the growing list of benefits associated with sensible strength training. Stronger muscles play a major role in our ability to maintain postural stability and to resist gravitational forces that may otherwise lead to loss of balance and physical injury.
If you are looking to improve your posture, here are some great exercise suggestions. Do 1 set of 10 reps for each of the following stability ball exercises, gradually building to 3 sets of 10 by month’s end: Is, Ys, Ts and Ws. Coupling these exercises with some of the following mobility exercises is also important.
Lying – Knees Bent – Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Place both arms out at shoulder height on the floor, with elbows bent at 90 degrees. (Imagine the feds just broke in and said, “Put your hands up!”) Tuck your chin, engage your torso and slowly slide both arms up along the floor without letting your lower back, rib cage, shoulders, or chin lift. If they do, stop and slide your arms back to the start position. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps. When that gets easy, do…
Lying – Legs Straight – Same as the previous exercise, only your legs are fully extended on the floor. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps. When that gets easy, do…
Seated – Back Against Wall, Knees Bent – Sit with your back flat against a wall. Rest your feet on the floor so your knees are comfortably bent. Place both arms out at shoulder height against the wall with elbows bent at 90 degrees. (It’s the feds again!) Tuck your chin, engage your torso and slowly slide both arms up along the wall without letting your lower back, rib cage, shoulders, or chin lift. If they do, stop and slide your arms back to the start position. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps. When that gets easy, do…
Seated – Back Against Wall, Legs Straight – Same as the previous exercise only your legs are fully extended on the floor. Do 2 sets of 5-10 reps.
In conclusion, basic strength training as part of a regular exercise program is highly effective for increasing standing height, improving posture and enhancing balance in middle-aged and older adults.Resource: AAHF