Now that you’re ready for the challenge, let’s get to work on a healthy new you! Over the next few weeks and throughout the new year, I’ll be giving you tips on how you can accomplish each of the resolutions in my #HealthyNewYou challenge. Start the new year off right by improving your spine health and achieving better overall health!
First up, let’s talk about how you can improve your posture.
1. Stand tall!
Stand in front of a mirror in your normal standing posture. Are your shoulders rounded or tilted forward? Is your head forward or tilted to one side? These are markers of poor posture. It can be difficult to change these bad habits, because we often fall into these positions without realizing it. By making yourself aware of what you need to correct, you can make a conscious effort to do better. Remember: shoulders back, chest high, and back straight.
2. Posture is important when you’re sitting, too.
If you have a desk job, it’s inevitable that you’re going to spend a lot of time sitting. How often do you go home with back and neck pain after a long day at the office? The problem could be how you are sitting. When we spend most of the day at a computer working, we often begin to hunch over it, taking the spine out of it’s natural alignment. We get so focused on the work that we’re doing that we don’t realize it until back and neck pain become a problem. Make sure your monitor and keyboard aren’t positioned so low that you have to slouch to use them. Also try a desk chair that supports the lower back and is firm enough that you don’t sink into it. Sit with both feet on the floor and your back against the back of the chair.
3. Roll on!
Shoulder rolls are a great way to promote good posture, and you can do them anywhere. Take a slow, deep breath, raising your shoulders as you count to five, then slowly exhale for another count of five while lowering your shoulders. Finally, squeeze your shoulder blades together, as if you were trying to make them touch, for five seconds. Do at least 7 – 15 shoulder rolls to start off, working your way up to at least 40 a day.
4. Core strength is key.
The core muscles help to support your spine. If your core muscles are weak, you’ll have a harder time keeping up your posture. When most people think of core strength, they think sit-ups; however, if you are prone to back pain, sit-ups might not be the best option for you. Try pelvic tilts instead, or if you’re strapped for time, try do-anywhere exercises that work multiple muscle groups at a time.
5. If you need to carry a purse or a heavy bag, switch to a cross-body if possible.
Large handbags are in style, but that often means women are carrying a lot of stuff. When you carry all of that weight on one side of the body for long periods of time, it can cause your spine to curve, which affects your posture. The same can be said for heavy tote bags and laptop bags. If you need to carry these types of bags for extended periods of time, consider a bag that has a cross-body strap. This will more evenly distribute the weight across your body. If a cross-body bag isn’t an option, make sure you are switching shoulders often to help balance out the load.
6. Choose your footwear carefully.
Believe it or not, your choice of footwear can affect your posture. Heels, flip-flops, and Ugg boots are all popular types of shoes, but they can all affect your posture. High heels force your foot forward, incorrectly distributing your weight. This makes your body tilt forward, forcing you to overarch your back to compensate. On the other hand, even if they are flat, the slipper-like design flip-flops and Ugg boots don’t give your feet the proper support. This can lead to abnormal movement in the pelvis, which can change your posture. Try to limit how often you wear these types of shoes.
7. Learn to lift heavy items properly.
Poor lifting posture can put your back at risk for injury. Whether you’re picking up a bag, your groceries, or your child, make sure you are lifting correctly. Always bend at the knees in a squatting position rather than bending at the waist. Keep your back straight. Use your legs to do most of the lifting work, rather than your back and arms.
These tips should get you on your way to better posture. What are you doing to improve your posture? Let me know by tweeting me @GleiberMD including the hashtag #HealthyNewYou.
Improved posture is just the first step to a healthy new you. Next up, we’ll discuss how you can avoid the ill effects of spending hours on your phone and at your desk each day. Stay tuned!