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Chronic back pain is one of the most common physical ailments plaguing people across the globe. Medical treatments like spinal injections and pain medication can often be ineffective and frustrating because they don’t offer long term benefits. However, one of the most practical solutions is actually very straightforward.
Simply improving the quality of posture can help alleviate a host of back problems related to muscle, disc, joint fatigue and inflammation. Poor posture is learned early and is often maintained out of habit and unawareness. Below are ten ways one can correct their posture and improve both mental and physical health.
1. GET A STANDING DESK
With a modern society that is spending more time sitting in office chairs, the importance of merely getting out of a seat is being toted as a necessity for long term health. Scientists have found a variety of adverse health effects that correlate with a lifetime of prolonged sitting. A standing desk will promote good posture by forcing an individual into a vertical position that is active rather than passive. Doing so will decrease the chances of slouching and creating improper curvature of the spine.
2. GET UP AND MOVE! (OFTEN)
One cannot improve posture if one is committed to living like a drowsy baby sloth. Staying active will promote good posture as well as improved cardiovascular health. Simply walking is enough to engage the core and strengthen the muscles that help support the spine. Spending too much time sitting or laying down can foster poor blood circulation and obesity, which make it more difficult to maintain good form when sitting or standing up. If one is used to doing a lot of sedentary work, it’s a good idea to shake up the monotony by taking periodic breaks that allow the body to stretch.
3. EXERCISE TO PREVENT INJURY AND PROMOTE GOOD POSTURE
Both cardio and strength training exercises are excellent for the promotion of good posture, and there are a myriad of ways one can stay engaged. Fitness videos and classes are one option, but people can also strengthen their core and improve posture by walking the dog, gardening, dancing, hula hooping and swimming. The key to staying active involves finding an activity that can be maintained consistently.
4. WEAR SUPPORTIVE SHOES WHEN STANDING
Many of the most stylish shoes are unfortunately among the least conducive to comfort, posture and fitness. It’s best to go for shoes that have a stable amount of support that will cushion foot falls and keep the ankles from rolling. Supportive shoes can help align the vertebrae so that posture is more efficient to maintain. Shoes lacking in support only serve to exacerbate tight muscles, fostering cramps, shin splints and even stress fractures. Shoes that promote healthy alignment tend to focus on stabilizing one’s center of gravity.
5. STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE WITH PILATES AND YOGA
Pilates and yoga emphasize deliberate movements that incorporate both static and active stretching that help improve core strength and overall stability of the body. Yoga can even reverse adverse posture ailments like hyperkyphosis, which is a curvature of the back often correlated with old age. Stretches like heart opening and core integration are designed to construct a foundation for developing the core strength that will combat hunched posture. Pilates works similarly by focusing on intense, concentrated movements that stretch and fortify the body.
6. VITAMIN D FOR BONE HEALTH
The importance of vitamin D has become a steadily stronger priority. Today, sedentary activities are more common than ever before, and children and adults alike are more prone to sitting indoors with screens rather than going outside. The sun’s rays can emit harmful ultraviolet light, but sunlight is necessary to help the body synthesize vitamin D production. Vitamin D is essential for prolonged bone strength. In addition to dietary sources of vitamin D such as milk, people should also consider supplements.
7. EAT HEALTHY
It’s impossible to maintain effective healthy posture without fortifying the body with the nutrition it requires. Many adverse health effects like type-2 diabetes and heart disease can be prevented with a holistic approach to food. Likewise, good posture is supported by what we eat. The spine protects the roots of our nervous system, and the skeleton and muscles must work in conjunction to protect our mental and physical health. Eating a diet rich in leafy greens, whole grains and lean protein is a great foundation. A focus on naturally sourced produce that’s rich in colors is key.
8. BREATHE SLOWLY – THROUGH YOUR NOSE AND FILL YOUR BELLY
Years of poor posture result in rounded, hunched shoulders and a reduced capacity for the rib cage to expand during inhalation. This weakened elasticity creates shallow breathing, which in turn fosters a deterioration of the lattissimus dorsi, middle trapezius and other back and chest muscles that are necessary for strong posture. To combat shallow breathing, one should spend time each day breathing deeply. It’s recommended to inhale and exhale in slow counts of at least four, so that one is forced to expand their chest beyond its usual limit. Improved breathing will improve posture as well as endurance during strenuous exercise.
9. LEARN TO DO WALL ANGELS
Wall angels are an exercise that target the shoulders and core, effectively improving posture over time. The movement involves pressing up against a wall similarly to how one would do a wall sit, but with heels and arms against the wall. The idea is to keep the hips and spine in direct contact with the wall while one slides their arms out and above their head from a ninety degree angle. To get proper form, it’s best to look at videos of the exercise in action. With repetition, wall angels will increase one’s range of motion within their chest, shoulders and upper back.
10. KEEP YOUR BODY IN ALIGNMENT WHILE SITTING IN A CHAIR AND WHILE STANDING
One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent poor posture involves merely keeping one’s back straight while doing daily activities. This can be difficult when one has slouched and snuggled languidly throughout life like a cat, but it’s not impossible. When sitting and standing, it’s a good habit to tighten the abdominals and make sure the shoulders are held back and that the back is centered and straight, rather than curved forward. With time and patience, maintaining proper posture won’t require a second thought.
Improving posture will ultimately improve overall mobility, allowing a person to be more physically active. This can be a tremendous opportunity to fulfill fitness goals and break through barriers that seemed previously insurmountable. By investing in posture, people will also fortify their spine and core muscles, which is important as one ages. Ultimately, an improvement in posture improves longevity while drastically reducing the chances of becoming a hunchback in a bell tower.