I recently accompanied a friend to a class for back problems. The speaker was a physical therapist that specialized in sports injuries. It was, for me, a good reason to catch some girlfriend time over a meal and I hoped to hear something of interest.
Although the speaker was good with just the right level of enthusiasm for his subject matter, I found myself listening out of one ear as my thoughts kept tugging me away. Then he switched gears and started talking about his 5 year old son and how he is always moving his body about even when he was standing in one place. He would be wiggling, standing on one foot, making faces, or jumping up and down, etc. He told how in observing the physical actions of the boy and how he decided to do a study of it in relation to adults. His conclusion was that the older the body the more important it is to keep moving. O.K…this is not new! However, he did have my attention if nothing more than curiosity as to how this observance of his active child was going to translate to be of interest to me.
I am now expecting him to go into a new presentation of a “new exercise regime” that would naturally be difficult to maintain…or something like that! I was wrong. He did say that exercise in any form is very good and spent a few minutes speaking about a few of them including Pilates and Yoga. Then he got to the point.
What he was referring to was conscious movement in everyday life. He asked us to become aware of how we were sitting in our (folding) chairs. Were we leaning back with shoulders hunched or maybe slumped a bit with an elbow thrown over the back of the chair? He mimed how some of us might be sitting in our recliners or couches at home where some might be hunched, slumped and draped almost becoming part of the furniture.
I noticed in the class some of us were sitting upright with our backs straight. This was the position he said we should be sitting in. I must admit with the past back problems that brought much pain, and many years passing with it; was exactly the way that became my habit. I could not sit back on any couch let alone slouch! Consciously thinking about proper posture had become my normal.
Good posture contributes to a healthier spine, better digestion and circulation, and helps bones and joints in correct alignment so our muscles are used correctly.
The speaker talked about using our muscles all the time…with awareness in different activities. When we get up out of our chairs we should use our leg muscles to lift us up instead of heaving ourselves up with the arms off the furniture or using our arms to press up. The thought being the more it’s consciously practiced the easier and beneficial for body strength. Almost sit on a chair and use thigh muscles to stand back up; repeating throughout the day.
While standing, bending down, or reaching up high, being conscious of our posture…shoulders back, butt and stomach tucked a bit enables better muscle control and awareness of the body.
He also encouraged practicing standing on one foot frequently. Stand with weight balanced evenly then lift your foot a few inches off the floor with arms to your side. Hold this position for 5 secs., if you can, and work towards 30 secs. Repeat with other leg. Repeat 1 or 2 more times, if you can.
As you do this exercise, focus on a spot straight ahead. Try to maintain good posture throughout by keeping your chest lifted, your shoulders down and back, and your abdominal muscles braced. And breathe comfortably. You could also use a chair or counter for balance if its too hard. Hold for up to 60 seconds if its too easy. Lifting leg to the front or side could be a variation if its comfortable for you.
This exercise is easy to incorporate into each day (multiple times) and it will get easier with time. This is of course for good balance as well as using muscles to maintain this pose for any length of time! The older we get the more balance can become a big issue. He noted many falls with the elderly are caused by this. It also helps strengthen the ankles which is important for balance as well.
If you are young and maintain an active lifestyle you can make sure some type of balance training is added to your activity of choice. You are never to young or old to benefit.