Written by Jill Biggins Gerbracht
I remember being tapped on the shoulder as a young girl by my mom telling
me to straighten up, stand tall and “for goodness sake, stop slouching.”
Little did I know how invaluable this concept would become as I got older.
As we age, the importance of good posture and its impact on our overall
health and well-being definitely becomes more top of mind.
Good posture refers to how our body is positioned and aligned when we’re
standing, sitting or lying down. When we have good posture, we are in
alignment and our muscles, ligaments, joints and nerves are working efficiently
and as intended. An upright stature also makes our movements more fluid
and our body less prone to injury.
With today’s advanced technologies we are all doing a lot more curving
and forward neck craning and, unlike generations before us, this can have
an even greater impact on our posture as we age. It is key to maintain
good posture in order to combat the loss of bone mass and reduced muscle
tissue that comes with age. Proper posture also minimizes strain on our
backs and necks by keeping our bones and muscles in their natural positions…and
can shave years off one’s appearance and self esteem!
“We have to put in daily work, with attention to small details like
posture, in order to maintain our overall well-being,” says Torrance
Memorial Physician Network primary care physician Alyna Torna, MD. “We
are like artists because our quality of life as we age depends on the
level of skill we apply in taking care of our health daily. No masterpiece
was painted in one go. It takes consistency over time.”
Follow these 8 steps to better posture at any age
Practice Weight Bearing and Progressive Resistance Exercises:
Weight-bearing exercises such as brisk walking, hiking, stair climbing,
jogging, tennis and progressive resistance training exercises such as
leg presses, seated rowing and weights help maintain and build stronger,
Be sure to stretch daily and open up your body to improve range of motion
and stay limber. Try to get up for a couple of minutes every half hour
and stretch, walk or stand.
When working at a desk, sit up tall with good posture and shoulders dropped.
Exercise disciplines that focus on body awareness, such as Pilates and
yoga, can help you to sit straight.
Strengthen Your Core:
Yoga is a great way to build up the strength of your “core”
– the muscles of your abdomen and pelvic area. This helps increase
body awareness and core strength. Restorative yoga is a good place to
start if you are a beginner. See details on Torrance Memorial’s
Restorative Yoga class on page 17.
Support your Spine:
Exercises targeting the back extensors, neck flexors, pelvic muscles and
side muscles are crucial. Trainers at gyms can help. There are even special
machines that target these muscles.
Get Plenty of Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and helps maintain muscle strength.
Eat healthy and get plenty of calcium in your body to keep bones strong.
Your doctor will be able to tell you whether you need a bone mineral density
scan to detect osteopenia or osteoporosis.
It’s Time for a Posture Check…
Take the Wall Test Stand so the back of your head, shoulder blades and
buttocks touch the wall. Your heels should be 2 to 4 inches apart. Place
a flat hand behind the small of your back. You should be able to slide
your hand between your lower back and the wall. If there’s too much
space behind your lower back, draw your belly button toward your spine.
If there’s too little space behind your lower back, arch your back
so your hand can slide behind you. Walk away from the wall while holding
proper posture. Return to the wall to check whether you kept the correct posture.
What Can I Do Right Now?
- Talk to your doctor about your vitamin D levels and osteoporosis
- Eat a diet high in calcium or take a calcium supplement if necessary
- Participate in weight-bearing and/or progressive resistance training for
your bone health – if you haven’t exercised for a while or
have medical conditions talk to your doctor
- Manage your fall risk factors, including participating in balance exercises
to help prevent falls
- Enroll in one of Torrance Memorial’s yoga or pilates Zoom classes
(see pages 16-17) to improve core balance and strength
Alya Torna, MD, is a primary care physician with Torrance Memorial Physician
Network in Rancho Palos Verdes at 24909 S. Western Avenue. She is accepting
new patients and can be reached at 310-891-6684.