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Bad posture can lead to many health problems

When posture is bad it puts pressure on the joints of your spine that interrupts proper nerve flow to your organs, glands, joints and musculoskeletal system. My exercise mentor Coach Tyler offers some suggestions in this week's newsletter. If you have any questions bring it up in your next session or contact me at 415-847-3755 or

Bad posture can lead to many health problems, some of which are pretty serious. Fortunately, these 3 posture exercises can help. Give them a try! One of the leading causes of lower back pain is sitting or standing with poor posture. Slouching while you sit, or being hunched over a keyboard at work all day, can lead to serious health problems. Studies have linked poor posture to tendonitis, difficulty breathing, and other serious concerns. Since 80 percent of people will deal with back pain in their life, pretty much anyone can benefit from working on their posture. Fortunately, there are 3 specific things you can add to your workout routine to help improve your posture. Here's more on what happens when you have bad posture, and 3 posture exercises you can do from anywhere with no equipment to stay healthy. What is bad posture? 'Bad posture' means that your head, neck, trunk (core and back, particularly the spine) are not in a position that promotes muscular or skeletal balance. It's commonly referred to as 'slouching' or being hunched over. You can have bad posture when sitting or standing, though it's particularly common for people who don't exercise much or sit while at work. Unfortunately, there are many undesirable side-effects to putting your spine in compromising positions like this. Side-effects of poor posture Here are some of the side-effects of having poor posture: Muscle pain in the lower back, upper back, neck, and shoulders Rounded shoulder posture (where your shoulders get stuck in a slouching position and your body appears to be rounded forward permanently) Decreased workout performance due to pain, tightness, or soreness Makes breathing more difficult Increases your risk of falling Tendonitis Spinal deformities (in extreme cases of prolonged poor posture) Constipation Heartburn and slowed digestion Such a long list may help you see how important it is to practice good posture. Can you fix bad posture? Yes you can, if you are patient and consistent. Since bad posture usually develops from chronically sitting or standing in sub-optimal positions, fixing it will require you to form new habits around maintaining a tall spine and balanced posture. In fact, one of the most important keys to fixing bad posture is simply becoming aware of your poor positional habits. Studies show that the majority of people have very low postural awareness (they don't even realize they're slouching)! You can also improve posture by stretching and strengthening a few key muscle groups, as certain areas can become weak if you slouch a lot. What does good posture look like? Here's what the exercises below aim to achieve. When sitting, you should: Relax the shoulders and keep them neutral—don't let them roll forward or pull them too far back Keep the elbows in tight to the body Sit up tall in your chair (use an ergonomic chair that allows you to make contact with it if possible) Make sure your hips and legs are well supported (sit on something comfortable) When standing, you should: Stand up straight and tall Pull the shoulders back Engage your core muscles Keep your head level–no tucking the chin Let the arms hang naturally at your sides Practicing these cues when you're sitting at work, walking around the house, or anytime you exercise are all good ways to reinforce good postural habits. What exercises improve posture? Movements like the YTW, reverse plank, and chest opener are all great ways to improve your posture. Each of these movements offers at least one specific solution that can help correct your poor posture. Those solutions are: Strengthening the muscles in the lower and upper back- Strengthening the muscles in your back helps take pressure off the spine that can lead to muscle pain and injuries. Also, learning to engage these muscles (especially the oft-neglected ones in your upper back, such as the rhomboids) help you develop better postural awareness. Opening up your chest- For most people, bad posture develops over time because they slouch when sitting or standing. This hunched-over position keeps your shoulders rounded forward and compresses the chest cavity, which can lead to tightness in your pectorals and deltoids (top of your arms/shoulders). It's equally important to loosen these muscles up so when you begin pulling your shoulders back again, sitting upright feels comfortable. (If it isn't comfortable, you'll be less likely to maintain good posture.) Loosening up your hamstrings- Tight hamstrings have been linked to restricted movement of your pelvis (hips) and trunk muscles, which could be causing you to slouch, sit in compromising positions, or even experience lower back pain. Also, a 2015 study found that a good workout program can alleviate shoulder, upper back, and lower back pain related to bad posture. So really, any type of exercise routine can be effective. But these three exercises can be particularly effective if you practice them regularly. The 3 best posture exercises you can do at home Below are our 3 favorite posture-improving exercises. Each one focuses on a specific goal, such as strengthening your back muscles, opening your chest muscles, or even strengthening the lower body. At the bottom of each section, you'll find a workout suggestion. Do your best to feel these exercises and the positions, and try to notice the difference in your spine's position after you're done. 1. YTWs YTWs are the perfect bodyweight exercise to reinforce key #1 above. They're especially helpful for strengthening and mobilizing the muscles in your upper back and shoulders. When doing this exercise, try to hone in on the engagement of the muscles around your shoulder blades. You might be surprised at how much you feel them activate when you focus! Beginner Exercise: Seated bent YTWs Start seated in a chair—now is a great time to practice good sitting posture (see above). Bend forward at the waist, keeping your spine erect; bring the arms up to form a Y. Make each “letter” pose with your arms from this position. ‘Y’: Start with your hands by your side, raise them straight until they’re overhead. Return hands to your sides. ‘T’: With your thumbs forward, raise your hands out to the sides, like a T. Keep your arms straight. ‘W’: With your hands by your side, pull your elbows back so your arms are at a 90-degree angle (like a bent row). Now, rotate up. Your palms will be facing the wall in front of you. At-home posture workout: 3 sets of 15 bent YTWs. Remember to take your time! Intermediate Exercise: Standing bent YTWs Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and kick your butt back, keeping a straight spine. Start with your hands by your side. Make each “letter” pose with your arms from this position. ‘Y’: Start with your hands by your side, raise them straight until they’re overhead. Return hands to your sides. ‘T’: With your thumbs forward, raise your hands out to the sides, like a T. Keep your arms straight. ‘W’: With your hands by your side, pull your elbows back so your arms are at a 90-degree angle (like a bent row). Now, rotate up. Your palms will be facing the wall in front of you when standing again. At-home posture workout: 3 sets of 15 standing bent YTWs. 2. Reverse planks These reverse plank exercises hit on all three of the solutions for poor posture mentioned earlier. They help you open up your chest cavity, strengthen your back muscles, and even give some attention to your hamstrings as you brace at the top of each repetition. Beginner Exercise: Tabletop lifts Start in a seated position on the floor; legs out in front of you, hands on the floor behind you (palms down); fingertips facing the back wall. Bend your knees so your heels come closer to your bottom (knees go toward ceiling). Pushing through your heels, raise your butt off the ground. Bring your hips to the sky. At the top, your body should be flat like a table. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core muscles tight. Hold. At-home posture workout: Hold for 30 seconds. Really feel your hamstrings activate! Take a break, then do 2 more sets. Intermediate Exercise: Reverse plank holds on hands Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, and your hands behind you, palms on the floor (fingers facing the back wall). Squeeze your glutes and dig heels into the ground. Bring your hips off the ground toward the sky. You should make four points of contact with the floor at the top: both hands, both heels. Hold here for as long as you can with good form. At-home posture workout: Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Really feel your hamstrings activate! Take a break, then do 4 more sets. 3. Chest openers Finally, here's a simple set of stretches you can do to open up your chest and shoulder muscles. The first one is something anyone can do, while the other one requires a bit of balance and flexibility. Beginner Exercise: Wall chest opener Start in a split stance in front of an open doorway or next to a wall. Bring your left arm up to shoulder height (fingers facing the ceiling) and place the inside of your arm on the wall or doorway. Gently lean the upper body forward; you should feel a stretch in your shoulder and chest. Repeat on the other side. Feel free to experiment with arm placements here—higher and lower might feel better for you depending on where you feel tightness. At-home posture workout: Do this stretch for 30 seconds on each arm a few times each day. Intermediate Exercise: Floor chest opener with knee up Lie on your stomach; create a letter 'T' with your body by placing both arms out to the side, face toward the left. Roll over onto your right side; lift the left knee off the ground for balance. Use your left foot to gauge how much you want to stretch—by pushing into the floor harder, you will increase it. Repeat on the other side. At-home posture workout: Do this stretch 2 times for 30 seconds on each side throughout the day for the next 5 days (right when you wake up and before bed are perfect times). If poor posture is giving you aches and pains, try incorporating posture exercises like these into your workouts. You'll strengthen those muscles and increase flexibility in areas that might be causing you trouble. Remember that results will come from forming new habits. Along with this routine, give yourself regular posture "checks" throughout the day. It might not be a bad idea to write down the cues for good posture so you remember them! . As always... here's to your best health! Dr. Linda

Dr. Linda Berry Healing Arts Chiropractic Nutrition Trauma Healing Please note: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical care. Always consult with your healthcare provider for advice before you begin taking new supplements. You are responsible for all of the health choices you make.

FUN FACT Your posture is one of the first things other people notice about you and can affect so much more in your life than just spinal health.

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