Our bodies are constantly changing and growing as we age, and as our bodies change, so can our posture. Posture is an important factor in balance, strength, and function, but it’s normal to experience changes in our height and posture with age. Thankfully, there are exercises and stretches that can prevent and delay changes in posture and help you relieve back pain.
Let’s talk about the causes of poor posture and five exercises to help improve it!
Causes of Poor Posture
Having poor posture is not just a strain on our back muscles. It can actually increase the risk of falling and injury. The system responsible for posture is called the musculoskeletal system. This system contains the bones that make up the spine and the muscles that help keep your spine strong and tall.
Aging is the most common cause of poor posture. Our body's aging often results in the involuntary loss of muscle mass. Once we reach the age of 30, our muscle mass can decrease up to 8% per decade. Once we reach 60, this percentage can double.
There are a variety of factors that influence this loss of muscle mass. Here are some of the most common factors!
Decline in Physical Activity
Often, muscle loss is a result of inactivity. Decline in activity isn’t always voluntary. Bedrest, injury, or illness can result in a decrease in your physical activity. Lack of physical activity is one of the biggest contributing factors besides age that affects muscle loss, so it is especially important to make sure your body gets the exercise it needs.
An unbalanced diet is another leading cause of losing muscle. If you are not consuming the calories, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and proteins your body needs, it will not be able to synthesize muscle. As we age, our tastes, appetites, and eating patterns can change. These changes can result in inadequate nutrition, which can lead to muscle loss and poor posture.
A multivitamin made for older adults can help you get the nutrients your body needs, while also providing other essential vitamins and minerals and promoting your overall health!
Changes in Hormones
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the blood and send signals to every organ in our body to perform different functions. They are vital for many of our bodily processes including our development and growth, metabolism, brain function, and the production of important substances.
However, as we age, our hormones change, too. Some hormone levels in the blood increase, while others decrease. Our body’s target receptors may become more or less sensitive to certain hormones as well, and this can affect our organ system and how well they perform their functions.
The specific hormones that increase muscle growth and metabolism are the growth hormone, insulin growth factor, and androgens. These hormones build up muscle mass rather than break it down. Some hormones that decrease muscle mass are glucocorticoids. These hormones break down muscle.
When we age, our bodies can make less hormones that build up muscle and more hormones that break it down. This makes it especially important to invest in exercise!
Exercises to Build Posture
Thankfully, there are a variety of resources and exercises to improve posture! Below are five of the best posture exercises to try.
1. Chin Tuck Exercise
The chin tuck exercise focuses on upper back posture and targets the bones in your neck, at the very end of your cervical spine. Many people with poor posture jut their necks forward, which can cause forward head posture and shoulder pain. This exercise focuses on training the neck muscles to relax from this jutted forward position and sit in a neutral position instead.
It can be done sitting or standing up straight. Move your chin back towards your spine, as though you are “tucking” it into your neck. Next, move your chin back to the position it was in, “jutting” it away from your body. Note that your head should not move up or down but stay relatively straight during these movements.
You can repeat this exercise for a few minutes each day.
2. Wall Tilt Exercise
This exercise promotes lower back posture. It focuses on the pelvic muscles and gluteal muscles to target the lower back and. building strength. A bonus of this exercise—it’s a great way to relieve lower back pain!
To perform this exercise, stand with your back straight against the wall and position your hand flat against your lower back. Keep the back of your head and your shoulders touching the wall throughout the exercise. Next, tighten the muscles in your stomach and tuck your pelvis under. Your back muscles should flatten, and your lower back should straighten out. You’ll also feel pressure on your hand if you’re doing it right!
If you experience lower back pain, you might also try massaging a topical pain reliever such as a hemp extract salve or hemp extract roll on on the affected area. Hemp contains CBD and is known to be an all-natural temporary way to relieve pain and tension in muscles and joints!
3. Wall Arms Circles
Another exercise that improves posture is wall arm circles. These can be done similarly to the wall tilt exercise. Stand flat against a wall and take a few small steps so that your feet are about six inches away from the wall. Next, lean your body backward so your head touches the wall and tuck your pelvis in so your lower back touches the wall.
If you want to build on this exercise, you can incorporate your arms as well. Slowly put your arms flat against the wall and lift them over your head. Make sure they continue touching the wall during the movement. Lower your arms back down and repeat.
You can perform this exercise regularly for a few minutes per day.
4. Scapular Retractions
This exercise targets your shoulder muscles. To perform a scapular retraction, you will need a resistance band. Sit or stand up tall and loop the band around a door frame or table leg. Make sure the band is secure and you can pull on it without the structure holding it moving.
Firmly hold the resistance band with both hands. If you are sitting, stand straight up and walk backward until your arms are completely extended, the resistance band is stretched, and there is tension on the band. Then, pull both shoulders back towards each other. Try to picture your shoulder blades touching during this exercise.
After performing a few of these movements, you will notice how your posture is already more natural and improved!
5. Bird Dogs
The last exercise that can help improve posture is one you can do from the floor. Position yourself so you’re on your hands and knees, each about shoulder-width apart. For extra comfort, use a yoga mat or a softer surface so you don’t hurt your knees.
Keep your head facing the ground in a neutral position and tighten your stomach muscles so your back straightens. Lift one leg behind you so it’s level with your back. Lift the opposite arms in front of you so it’s level with your body as well. Hold this position for five to ten seconds, keeping your back straight and your arm and leg stable. Alternate arms and legs and repeat for a few sets.
You can also break this exercise up into pieces. You can extend your right leg out straight, holding it there and lowering it down, and then lift your arm and do the same exercise.
Other Tips to Improve Posture
In addition to these exercises, here are a few tips to help you improve your posture throughout the day.
Eat a balanced diet.
By giving your body the nutrients it needs to synthesize muscle and stay strong, you can help improve your posture and keep your musculoskeletal system healthy.
Many older adults experience changes in taste and appetite due to medication. If you’ve noticed a decrease in your caloric intake, talk to your doctor about possible side-effects of medication you’re on.
If you’re not getting enough food, you likely are lacking nutrients as well. Talk to your doctor about whether a probiotic supplement or omega-3 supplement is right for you! These can help you get some of the nutrients you may be missing in your diet.
Take calcium supplements and vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps with the production and regulation of calcium in our bodies. Calcium is responsible for the building of bone structure in our bodies. By taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement, you can support your body’s production of calcium and strengthen your bones.
Stand tall and pay attention to your posture during the day.
While you’re at the dinner table, watching television, or walking at the grocery store, pay attention to your posture. Relax your shoulders and tighten your abdominal muscles if you notice yourself slumping a little.
Engage in regular aerobic and strength training exercise!
These exercises build muscle and improve your overall physical health and wellness which can improve your posture as well.
Posture is important for those at any age. Posture is the foundation for balance, movement, and physical activity so, keeping your posture healthy and strong is important! These five exercises and tips can help you improve your posture, relieve back pain, and keep your spine healthy!