Posture is the position in which you hold your body against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture is where our weight is well positioned over our feet making it much easier to balance. It is important to maintain good postural alignment to decrease stress on your muscles, ligaments and structure and in turn ensures your body functions properly, eliminating the risk of muscle imbalances, pain, and falls.
With the increase in our ageing population and with increased life expectancy of our elderly the importance of maintaining mobility is becoming ever more critical. As we age, it is more common for the centre of mass to shift forward throughout activities of daily living, referred to as having a ‘stooped posture’. Degenerative changes increase with aging, and one of the biggest causes, Osteoporosis, can cause these changes such as compression or fracture of the vertebral bones. Many people might tell someone with this posture to ‘straighten up’ or ‘stand up tall’ but what does this exactly mean and what are the underlying causes contributing to this posture?
“A forward head translation is the result of this spinal change.”
Muscle rigidity and imbalances can cause you to bend forward. When the spine is bent forward into a stooped or kyphotic posture, an anterior head translation is created causing the centre of mass to shift forward from the feet. This pro-longed forward posture causes the muscles that flex or forward bend the spine or hip, such as the psoas and iliacus, to become hyperactive. Other implications from this stooped posture include the in-use of glutes, being quad dominant, tight chest and weak core and upper back muscles. A forward head translation is the result of this spinal change.
“Stooped posture is becoming far more prevalent in younger people”
It not only happens in the elderly. Stooped posture is becoming far more prevalent in younger people due to prolonged use of phones and computers known as ‘text neck’. Furthermore other factors can include the use of high pillows, and low calcium, etc.
A good way to check your posture is to have someone take a photo from the front, back and sides. In particular we want to assess the side picture for a stooped posture. Your Longevity Personal Trainer or Exercise Physiologist can take these images and record them on file for future reference and comparison. Features to look out for are:
- Is the body in one straight line?
- Is there a bend at the hips or knees?
- Does the neck, upper back, and lower back form a nice ‘S’ shape? (Small cervical lordosis, small thoracic kyphosis, and small lumbar lordosis)
- Is the ear in line with the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle?
- Is the pelvis in a neutral position? (Can you see the hips tilt forward or backward)
What can you do? Try these posture exercises!
Due to skeletal maturity it is difficult to change the structure of the spine, however exercises can help to improve the cosmetic appearance. The main principles are to stretch the strong (tight) muscles and strengthen the weak (small) muscles. Some basic exercises to help promote a better posture include:
- Dead bug
- Bird dog
- Seated row
- Hip flexor stretch
- Chest stretch
- Supine lying with head retraction
An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help to individualise and progress exercises specific to your body. It is never too late to begin exercising to improve your posture, and by starting now you can delay or stunt further deterioration. Get in touch to find out how we can help!
By Angela Vitucci
M Exercise Physiology (USYD)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Longevity Exercise Physiology
Angela has extensive experience in spinal health, in particular scoliosis. She works to improve her clients posture in both standing and sitting (passive positions) and translating this to good athletic (active position) posture.