Let’s Get Physical: Align that Spine

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By: Alison Kanaby

We all have habits during the course of the day that wreak havoc on our posture. From sitting at a computer for extended periods of time, to talking on the phone, to slouching while eating. It’s these simple things that add up over time. Having good posture is so important to our overall well-being. In fact, poor posture can, over time, lead to a permanent change in the shape of your spine and cause chronic changes in the muscles.

There are simple activities you can do during the course of the day to improve your posture, and there are some basic exercises you can do to improve your core strength. “But I don’t have time!” is the most common response I get from people. Just think simple…basic. You don’t need a lot of time to do the following life changes and exercises, and they can make a lasting impact on your body, your future!

Activities and Changes You Can Make
Talking on the phone. With cell phones being so thin, we hold them to our ear and that raises our shoulders up, which causes the spine to rotate and the muscles to be pulled. After being on the phone a while, you will notice your trapezius and neck muscles feel tight. If it’s possible, just put your phone on speaker. It’s a very simple change, but it can save your muscles a lot of aggravation.

Sitting at a computer. It’s easy, as we spend hours at a time sitting in front of a computer, to slowly let our shoulders drop forward. Then, our thoracic spine starts to curve forward. Make a conscious effort to take a deep breath and roll your shoulders back. This will straighten the spine and return your shoulders to their normal position. It will allow the trapezius muscles and upper back muscles to relax.

Basic Exercises
Performing simple exercise a couple of times a week will strengthen your core. Your core muscles include your abdominal and back muscles. There are basic exercises that won’t take a lot of time to help you strengthen these muscles.

Planks. I think a lot of people get nervous when they hear the word “planks!” It’s actually not a scary exercise to do, and there are multiple versions. You can do this exercise at work, at home or at the park. It’s versatile! Lay down on your stomach, resting on your elbows. Then, lift your body up, still resting on your elbows, forearms on the ground, and toes on the ground, straighten your back. Tighten your abdominal muscles, buttock muscles, thighs, calves, and pull your elbows to your toes and your toes to your elbows. Hold this for fifteen seconds. Repeat a total of four times. Yes, you will likely be shaking by ten seconds the first time that you do this. Slowly, build this up to sixty seconds. No need to go past that point because you don’t gain any more strength at that point – just fatiguing your muscles more.

Sit-ups. There’s a lot of controversy about sit-ups due to people injuring their neck from holding their hands behind their head. So, there is a different version, a more fun version that your can do. You will need a ball, weighted is best, and a friend to help. Lay on your back, legs straight, hands straight resting on the ground, holding the weighted ball. Sit up, keeping your legs on the ground, and throw the ball to the person standing in front of you. Your friend can toss the ball back to you, and you lay down again. Repeat this twenty times, take a rest and then repeat again another twenty times. Build up, increasing the number of groups that you do.

Prone Superman. Lay down flat on your stomach with your legs straight, and your arms straight out in front of you. Slowly, raise your arms and legs off the ground and hold for five seconds. Then, slowly lower them back to the ground. Repeat this ten times, and do two sets of this. This can be done in the office or at home. I would recommend having a small yoga mat if you are planning on doing this at work.

Core strength is a really important part of your long-term health, and core exercises will help you to achieve it. If you can do these exercises two to three days a week, you will be in significantly better shape than you are today. Just stick with it! Getting into a routine of these simple changes and exercise will leave you with a happier and healthier back, and overall feeling better! Feeling good doesn’t have to be complicated.

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