Fitness is a growing theme in healthcare. If you are like many Americans, your doctor has prescribed an exercise regimen. Exercise helps keep excess weight off, prevents disease, and improves your overall health. Although we know these are the facts, how many of us actually do it? The American Heart Association recommends thirty minutes of exercise five times a week. This can be difficult to maintain if you experience problems with balance, or back pain. With a couple of simple exercises, that can be done in the comfort of your home, You can help alleviate this discomfort and make a regular workout routine achievable.
I had a client who came to me several years ago with balance and posture issues. Her back hurt so badly, that she was beginning to lose the ability to travel and enjoy her retirement. She had noticed her posture slipping as she aged, and felt her movement was beginning to be restricted. This meant she would have to limit her travel plans to accommodate her limited movement. A simple at-home exercise to prevent, or improve upon this, is a standing plank. You simply place your arms at a ninety degree position (in line with your shoulders) with your forearms against the wall. Take a slight step back so your body is at an angle, and lift your heels so your weight is on your toes. Focus on keeping your head in line with your spine, and your eyes pointed between your elbows. Hold this position for 15 seconds, while engaging your core and lower back. Focus on breathing deeply. To increase the difficulty of the exercise, gradually step back or practice on the floor for a more challenging position. Increasing your abdomen and back strength will improve your posture, by rounding the shoulders back and bringing the chest up.
Another practice to improve your posture, is to give yourself several posture checks throughout the day. Start by rolling your shoulders back, tightening your core and lifting your chin. As we age, many people find themselves looking down as they walk. By lifting your chin, your chest will naturally rise and your back will straighten. As an added benefit, your breathing will improve as your ribcage is not being obstructed.
If you have experienced poor posture as you’ve aged, you might also have felt your balance worsen. This shows itself in a hesitation to walk on uneven terrain, or a reliance on guardrails or canes if you are otherwise healthy. Untreated balance issues oftentimes leads to tripping, or accidents that can threaten your mobility and be debilitating. A simple exercise to remedy balance issues, is a stork pose. Stand upright next to a wall or beam, in case you need to assist yourself. Center your body weight over one foot, and slowly lift your opposite leg a couple inches off of the ground. As you improve, lift your leg up to a ninety degree angle. Hold the pose, starting with fifteen seconds and working your way up to thirty seconds. Alternate your legs and repeat three times. Be mindful to keep your hips level, and to not lock your knee on the standing leg. Exercise the good posture tips discussed above, and keep your chin up.
Simple steps can be taken now, to prevent big problems in the future. As a personal trainer, I have seen many of my clients arrive with balance and posture issues that affected their day to day health. Using exercise as a medicine, they have alleviated the pain they’ve been living with, and experienced more energy and a better quality of life. By taking a few minutes a day to complete these exercises, you will start to see the benefits within a few short weeks.
Kyle Ciminski is a Personal Trainer in Anacortes. In the fitness industry for over ten years, he holds over 30 training certifications and is a Certified TRX Master Trainer. While he maintains a large client base, his specialty is injury recovery and training active seniors.