Many seniors, as they become older experience a stoop caused by rounding the shoulders and curving the spine.
Mostly, this postural stoop (hyperkyphosis) is a result of the loss of muscle mass and the subsequent lack of strength, osteoporosis and spinal disc degeneration. These conditions are largely irreversible but with a little bit of effort, it’s possible to strengthen your muscles and learn how to stand a little bit straighter.
When you do this, you’ll find that many other aches and pains disappear as your posture improves. You must strengthen your back muscles around the spine by a few simple exercises and maintain a sensible posture.
So, what can we do about this condition?
What is a good standing posture?
Try to keep your back straight with your head upright, looking straight ahead. Modern living means we often tilt our head with our chin tucked into our chest. We look downwards to read a book or look at our phones. This is okay now and again, as long as we don’t keep this posture for long periods.
Strategies to maintain good posture
How we stand should always be the first thing to look at. Many people stand on one leg while crossing the other one at the ankle. Furthermore, we usually do this while leaning against a wall or a door frame.
We also tend to stand with one hand on a hip, causing the body to tilt to one side. Basically, we don’t stand upright. This isn’t how our bodies are designed to stand and creates a muscle imbalance which in turn puts a strain on our back muscles.
Plant both feet on the ground and adjust your weight so that it is evenly distributed between the two. Similarly don’t rest one hand on your hip. If you feel you must rest your hands somewhere, put both hands on your hips. Always keep your body symmetrical and balanced.
Carrying a bag/posture
Many people carry a heavy bag, either in one hand or on one shoulder. This causes an imbalance between the two sides. If you carry a shopping bag in one hand, try to split the load evenly into two bags and use both hands to carry them at the same time. Keep your body balanced. You’ll find it takes far less effort to carry two bags like this and will reduce the aches and pains you experience.
Similarly, if you carry a shoulder bag, you are putting the entire load onto one shoulder and putting your body out of balance. Try to support the strap on the opposite shoulder by crossing the strap across your chest and switch sides now and again. Even better is to use a backpack with two shoulder straps so the load is carried evenly.
Posture exercises to prevent stooping
You can improve your posture to help prevent stooping and many muscle aches. Once again the secret is to keep balanced at all times
Try not to sit unless you have to. It’s better to spend as much time as you can standing and walking correctly. Unfortunately, that’s not how we live in the modern world. We drive cars, sit at computer screens and slouch in a chair. Often, the chairs we use aren’t designed to help our posture, they’re designed for a standard sized and shaped body. Unfortunately, none of us have a standard body!
- Buy an ergonomically designed chair that we can adjust to suit our body shape. Ensure it has good lumbar support and can be adjusted so that our feet rest comfortably on the ground.
- If you can’t do this, use a small footstool so that your hips are at a 90-degree angle.
- Move your chair nearer to the desk so that you don’t have to lean forward to work.
- Adjust the computer screen so that it’s directly in front of your face and you’re looking straight at it.
- Every hour, stand up and walk around for a few minutes. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and do the stretching exercises outlined in this article.
Sit in a comfortable chair and ensure it’s supporting your back correctly.
- Drop your chin an inch or so and bring it back toward your neck. Try to keep your shoulders stationary as you do this movement and hold it for about five seconds.
- Repeat this five times in one session and do several sessions throughout the day.
Shoulder blade squeeze
For this exercise you’ll need a resistance band They don’t cost much and you can buy them online or from many sporting equipment stores.
- While standing, wrap the resistance band around each hand, keeping it taut.
- Hold your arms at your sides, keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees with your hands in front of you.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as tightly as you can so that you try to stretch the band.
- Hold this position for five seconds. Over time try to work this duration up to ten seconds.
- Repeat at least five times and no more than ten times.
Pectoral Ball Smash
This exercise is very satisfying and will relieve many aches and pains. All you need is a tennis ball or any other ball of a similar size.
- Place the ball against your chest or shoulders and keep it in place by leaning against a wall.
- Move your body around so the ball moves.
- Continue until you find the spot that is causing the most discomfort.
- Hold it there for about 20 seconds. You will feel the painful knot relax.
- Move the ball around until you find another spot. Hold it there too.
- Continue until you’ve found all the uncomfortable places.
As an extension of this exercise you can also try using the same method, but against your back. You might find it harder to keep the ball in place but stick at it. It’s worth it.
This is a good exercise to build up your back muscles.
- Lie on a mat or a carpeted floor on your stomach. Keep your legs straight out and cushion your forehead with a rolled-up towel.
- Place your arms along your sides with your palms facing up.
- Breathe in. Then, as you exhale squeeze your shoulder blades together, lift your head and feet at the same time.
- Hold the position for five seconds then relax.
- Repeat up to five times.
There are many more exercises designed to strengthen your back muscles which in turn will improve your posture. However, start with these and change the way you stand and you’ll soon find you’re walking and standing straighter and more upright. For more exercises for seniors use this link.
If you like this post you should also check how to improve mobility and balance.