Like fine wine, the wisdom of parental advice improves with age. Research shows your mother was even right about standing up straight, as shown by new studies finding that people with better posture really are healthier and actually live longer.
Think of someone over 80 who looks and lives the way you want to when you get to be that age. Now ask yourself, “How is that person’s posture?” Even though most people in their 80s suffer the bent-over slump of age, you’re probably thinking of someone who still stands tall and erect.
Not only are there intuitive reasons why people with good posture are healthier and more active, but poor posture also has a dramatic effect on another growing problem facing older adults: falls and poor balance. According to the National Safety Council, over 1.5 million people over 65 are seriously injured each year in falls, which cause nearly 14,000 deaths, with another quarter suffering debilitating injuries that affect them for the rest of their lives. In addition, poor posture affects how well your heart can pump blood, and even how well you can breathe.
As a clinician, posture expert and author of Stand Taller~Live Longer: An Anti-Aging Strategy, Dr. Steven Weiniger often advises people to feel for themselves the difference posture makes in how your body works with this simple demonstration:
“While slumping forward in a chair, take a breath in and note how deeply you can breathe. Then, scoot your bottom back in the chair, pull your shoulders down, lift your head up and sit tall. Note the significant difference when you take in a deep breath while maintaining strong posture.”
Unfortunately, most of us are spending more time than ever slumped in front of a TV, computer, or video game, and our poor posture is getting worse. If you stop to think about it, you're likely slumping as you read this (unless you just straightened up a bit). When you spend 18 hours a day with your body folded into a chair, you'll go back to the slump as soon as you stop thinking about it. The problem with improving posture is, no matter how good your intentions, just trying to stand up straighter simply doesn't work (case in point: are you slouching again?).
Renée North, Certified Posture Exercise Professional (CPEP) has this advice for improving posture. “In order to make a change, we must retrain our motion patterns, and this begins with becoming aware of our posture first, and then developing new habits. Incorporating a One-Leg Balance into daily life is a great place to start. Make this exercise an immediate part of your daily routine and you will see and feel a difference.”
Weiniger’s One-Leg Balance
Your posture is ultimately how your body is balancing. Even if someone is standing crooked, mechanically they are balanced or they would fall down! Standing on one foot is a way of seeing how good your idea of where you are in space agrees with where your body really is.
Stand up, tall and straight.
Lift your left leg so your thigh is level with the ground.
Count to 20.
Repeat on the other side.
You should be able to balance on each leg for 20 seconds. If you can't, you probably need to work on improving balance.
LifeHabit Tip: Try to balance on one leg at least three times a day. If you are wobbly, hold on as you lift your leg, but focus on standing up with strong, tall posture, keeping your feet pointing straight ahead and pelvis level.
Strengthening posture can relieve postural neck and back pain as well as help you get the most benefit from any exercise because your form gets naturally better. If you focus on posture each day and work to strengthen balance, alignment, and motion, over time you’ll be surprised not only at the difference in how you feel, but even how others see you. The bottom line is, when you keep moving you feel good and age well.
Dr. Steven Weiniger, nationally recognized expert on posture and anti-aging, is the author of Stand Taller~Live Longer: An Anti-Aging Strategy. The book combines cutting-edge research and interactive demonstrations to progressively build a 10-minute a day posture exercise routine for your body. This anti-aging strategy can make a difference not only in how you feel and move today, but also how well you'll move 20, 30 and even 40 years from now. www.StandTallerLiveLonger.com Renee North is a Certified Posture Exercise Professional (CPEP) and trainer (NASM-CPT) working as an instructor for other professionals in the health and fitness industry. www.BodyZone.com