Good Posture is Key to Aging Well

The human body is perfectly capable of functioning problem free as long as inborn balancing mechanisms are allowed to function undisturbed, but acquired bad habits of movement and alignment bring on a whole range of physical problems. As shoulders slump, undue pressure is put on the heart, and lung capacity diminishes.  The back muscles become continually tense to compensate for the imbalanced posture causing headaches, chronic back pain and predisposing one to injury, while the stomach muscles become slack and weak. The internal organs are displaced downward, impairing their function and giving one a "potbelly."  Joints become stiff and muscles lose their tone.  In this state true relaxation becomes impossible, as does peak physical performance of any kind.

The past few years of economic distress have caused us to give up some of our healthy habits, such as regular massage sessions, and this lack has been taking its toll on our posture, which, perhaps, explains why I’ve been on such a Posture Kick recently. 

Over time, poor posture causes muscle weakness or tightness.  Slumping while watching TV or using a computer may throw your body out of balance.  Carrying heavy bags or uneven loads worsens the problem. Our parents and grandparents were onto something when they told us to sit up straight and stand erect.  Perfecting your posture requires a lot of attention initially, but becomes second nature with practice.  Good habits build good posture, and good posture gives you more energy and fewer aches and pains.

Posture does change over time, but many of the limitations that people associate with aging are actually due to inactivity.  You may see older people with an almost goose-necked stance, head forward and shoulders severely rounded.  Many younger people, especially those who spend a lot of time at their desks peering at computer monitors, exhibit these same postures earlier in life.

Age-related changes and conditions do occur.  For example, as you get older the discs in your back lose some of their water content, becoming less spongy, more rigid, and narrower, exaggerating bad posture and stiffness.  Hips and knees tend to become slightly more bent as you age, leading to changes in walking patterns.  The possibility of developing conditions such as osteoporosis and spinal stenosis also increases with age.  You can't turn back the hands of time, but with proper care, you can maintain and improve your body's performance despite advancing age.

Loss of Posture Affects Balance

As our core strength weakens with age, balance is impaired and the body compensates by increasing our base--providing a wider platform to walk on.

Loss of Posture Causes Pain

Posture is significantly affected by the alignment of the hips and pelvis, which can tip forward and backward evenly and get off-balance side to side. If one side gets higher, the other side compensates by going lower. If one side moves forward, the other side compensates by moving backward. This loss of posture can cause pain in the low back, knees and feet.

Return to the Fetal Position

The most familiar change in posture is the return to the fetal position. The head and shoulders shift frontward, the chest curls inward, the spine scrunches into the letter "C" and the pelvis tilts forward, leaving the straightness of our youth behind and caving our bodies back into the fetal position.

Loss of Curves and Mobility

As we age, we lose the youthful curve in our low back--as well as most of our other curves. We also lose mobility in the hips and pelvis, giving us the appearance of being stiff, rigid and old.

Osteoporosis and Sarcopenia Affect Posture

Osteoporosis, the loss of bone, and sarcopenia, the loss of muscle, are both causes of poor posture as we age. They're also both preventable and reversible.

As we age, we begin to experience noticeable changes to our posture, changes that take away our youthful silhouette and identify us as an older person.  Along with these changes come unnecessary pain and stiffness. Being aware of these changes and working consciously to correct them can keep you looking young and pain-free through your golden years.

Fight the effects of aging by protecting your posture with weight and resistance training, stretching and by getting regular massage.  Regular massage sessions help with muscle tone and balance, can help correct imbalances in your body, reduce your risk of injury, speed healing if you do get injured, and keep you stress and pain free ~ naturally.  Yoga will keep you in top shape - strong with resistance training and flexible; plus Yoga will help you stay calm, teach you practices for stress management, reduce your risk of injury and help you sleep like a baby at night.  Ask about combing personal Yoga instruction with massage for the ultimate "zen" experience!

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Copyright © Janet Lawlor, BCTMB