If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible... what wine is so sparkling, so fragrant, so intoxicating, as possibility!"
- Soren Kierkagaard
Do you immediately want to create the illusion of looking 10 pounds lighter? Work on your posture. Want to look more youthful? Work on your posture. Want to feel more energetic? Posture - posture - posture!
A lot of personal training clients come to me for an initial analysis of their fitness level and mistakenly think that my main concerns are body fat levels, muscle quality, cardiovascular endurance and all the other components that normally define ideal fitness.
Most aren't aware that one of the first things I assess is posture.
Posture is more than just the position of your body. Physical disabilities aside, it's also a very telling sign about your attitude about life and about yourself.
Excellent posture is also important because it can prevent back pain. According to ACE (The American Council on Exercise), "Correct posture and body mechanics play a vital role in preventing back pain because pressure on the discs and strain of the muscles, ligaments and back joints is aggravated by incorrect posture and body mechanics. At the same time, when your posture is good and you move your body correctly, you reduce strain on the lower back."
And, belive it or not, good posture can make you look almost a stone lighter - instantly!
So what's the solution? I hear trainers mention to clients that strengthening the back with rowing movements will help strengthen the back muscles, as well as the rear area of the shoulder, which then helps pull the shoulder back slightly and assists with posture.
I have not found this to be necessarily true. I've seen people with excellent development in the back and front area of the body and they still slope. Making sure you work all areas of the body is vital, but it won’t necessarily improve your posture.
Most people think that elaborate posture exercises are necessary, but it’s simply not the case. Practicing just a few exercises is part of the formula. The rest of the formula is something very, very obvious that we all tend to miss. I’ll get to that a little later.
Let’s begin with two simple movements that will have you on your way to picture perfect posture.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your head directly over your shoulders and shoulders over the pelvis (don’t lean forward or backward).
- Tighten the abdominal muscles.
- Tighten and tuck in the glutes (the butt).
- Hold for 10 seconds and keep your breathing natural.
- Repeat two additional times.
- Then, bring the feet in just inside shoulder-width apart and repeat. This helps to improve posture while in various standing positions.
Although the movement will feel odd, you’ll become accustomed to it in a week or two and actually begin to feel and see a difference.
For individuals who suffer from extreme slouching, stand with your back up against a wall and slightly squeeze the shoulder blades in the direction of the wall while still performing the body mechanics from Exercise 1.
For those with poor posture due to extended sitting, ACE provides the following excellent tips:
"When sitting either in a relaxed position, driving, or while at work, support your lower back. Use a rolled towel, small pillow, or a specially designed seat support, available at medical supply stores.
Remove this lower back support every half hour for five minutes to give your lower back a change of position. Your head should be positioned so that your ear is in a line with your shoulder and your chin is parallel with the floor.
Avoid leaning to one side when you are sitting, and avoid overstuffed furniture as it does not offer adequate support. When working at a desk, your chair should be pulled close to the desk. An office chair with short arm rests will allow this. Office chairs should also have adjustable height, back rests and seats. The back rest spring should be adjusted so the back rest moves with you. A seat that tilts forward is a particularly useful feature.
Use a swivel chair to enable you to work without twisting your back. Place objects such as adding machines and computers as close to you as possible to minimize the amount of twisting and turning you need to do.
When you lean forward at your desk, bend forward at the hips instead of rounding your lower back. This will allow you to keep your back straight and in good alignment."
Need more formal training or want something that you can do in a class or through video instruction? Try yoga and/or Pilates. These two forms of movement are excellent for improving posture and for overall general health.
So, what’s the other part of the formula I mentioned earlier?
Awareness is the key ingredient in improving posture. One should make a conscious decision to spend five days completely aware of their posture throughout the day. When you catch yourself slouching, consciously decide to sit up straight. If you find your abdominals are protruding and hips thrusting forward, slightly pull the hips back into proper alignment. I have found this "awareness" and "correction" technique to be very effective.
It’s important that our body be in natural alignment in order to reduce stress on the lower back, help joints remain healthy, bring muscles more in balance and, last but not least, to elevate our psychological and emotional state.
Oh, by the way, the part about you looking slimmer by improving your posture isn’t too bad of a reason either.
Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.