Bad posture is a common issue for Americans of all ages, and just about everyone could do with some lessons on the importance of standing and sitting up straighter. Seniors, in particular, can benefit immensely from improving their posture.
Seniors who have poor posture are more likely to fall and experience serious injuries. Practicing good posture can also help you retain the strength you need to accomplish daily tasks and maintain your independence as you age.
If your posture could use some work — or if you just want to keep your good posture as you get older — these five easy exercises can help.
1. Chin Tucks and Juts
This is a great exercise you can do while sitting or standing. The goal is to work on stacking your cervical vertebrae (the bones in the neck) so they’re in a neutral position.
Many people’s cervical spine tilts forward, causing them to struggle with a forward head and rounded shoulders. This can lead to neck pain and chronic headaches.
To do this exercise, start by sitting up straight. Then, pull your chin back, as though you’re making a double chin. Make sure it goes straight back — don’t lift your chin toward the ceiling. After pulling your chin back, gently jut it forward in the opposite direction.
2. Wall Tilts
This is a great exercise for strengthening the pelvis and gluteal muscles. This, in turn, helps relieve lower back pain and improve lower back posture.
Start by standing with your back against a wall. Place one hand behind your lower back and pull your abdominal muscles in and tuck your pelvis under. This will cause your lower back to flatten — you’ll know you’re doing it correctly if you’re putting pressure on your hand. Keep your shoulders and back of your head against the wall while you do this.
If this exercise is too difficult to do while standing, try doing it while sitting down with your back to the wall.
3. Wall Arm Circles
If you’ve mastered the wall tilts, this exercise is a good one to progress to. Start in the same position, standing with your back to the wall.
Walk your feet out so there are about six inches between the wall and your heels. Lean back against the wall and tuck your pelvis so your lower back touches. Pull your shoulders and head back so they touch the wall as well.
For some people, this position is difficult enough. If you feel up to it, slowly raise your arms overhead, keeping the backs of them touching the wall at all times. When your hands touch, return to the beginning position, making sure the backs of your arms never leave the wall.
4. Scapular Retractions
For this exercise, you will need a resistance band. You can perform it standing or sitting. Loop the band around a sturdy surface, like a table leg or in a door frame.
Once it’s secure, take a handle in each hand and stand up straight. Walk backward until there’s tension on the band and your arms are extended in front of you, parallel to the floor.
Keep your arms straight and pull your shoulders back, drawing your shoulder blades together. This is a small movement, but you’ll see immediately how much it can improve your posture.
5. Bird Dogs
For this exercise, you’ll need to start on your hands and knees. Look straight down at the ground to keep your head in a neutral position. Pull your abdominal muscles in as well to support and straighten your back.
Once you feel stable, lift your right leg so it extends straight behind you. Lift your right arm and extend it in front of you. Keep your back straight — don’t let it arch. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your arm and leg and repeat with the opposite limbs.
If this is too difficult, you can start by just lifting your legs one at a time, then lift each arm individually. Over time, you’ll be able to progress and lift both limbs simultaneously.
Bonus Tips to Further Improve Your Posture
In addition to performing these exercises regularly, following these bonus tips can help you improve your posture even more:
Exercise regularly to reduce stiffness and further strengthen your muscles
Work on improving your balance with yoga, pilates, or Tai Chi
Manage your weight to prevent back strain
Use an ergonomic chair
Sleep on your side and make sure your head is level with your neck
You can also use tools designed to help you straighten your back. For example, back braces assist in maintaining good posture.
Be patient, too. It can take time to improve your posture, but the effort is absolutely worth it.
Contributed by Vive Health Writers