By. Dr. Marilyn Field/Senior Healthcare Advisors
As we grow older, our spines start to change. The discs that cushion the bones start to thin out and eventually break down as we age. Also, the cartilage and connective tissues become thinner and start to lose elasticity. However, as scary as this sounds, there are ways to minimize our “height loss” and keep the bones in our spine healthy. Maintaining a proper posture as we age is vital to keeping our spine and backs from hurting by staying straight and strong.
Learning how to sit correctly is also important for maintaining a healthy spine and back and a good posture. Sitting straight not only is good for your physical health, it also is good for your self-confidence. Standing up straight makes you feel much more confident, weather your having a conversation in front of your church, walking into a room, The truth is that we spend a great deal of time sitting; we travel in a sitting position, many work sitting at a desk, and we tend to dine, relax, and enjoy entertainment, all in a sitting position.
Proper posture is even more important for seniors. Learning the proper method to make sure you’re maintaining good posture can help you in the following ways:
- Be more mindful of your posture. Staying balanced will decrease your chances of a fall. Falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors, often causing broken bones and other injuries.
- Prevent osteoporosis. When you have a poor posture your back’s ligaments and muscles have to work overtime. Overworked muscles can cause your spine to degenerate over time therefore leading to serious conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
- Lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. When your blood isn’t flowing in the proper way throughout your body, you are at greater risk for heart attack and stroke and conditions like diabetes and obesity.
- Seniors often develop hypertension when their blood isn’t flowing properly throughout their bodies. This also puts them at greater risk for stroke, heart attack and conditions like obesity and diabetes.
- Lift spirits and decrease feelings of depression. Having proper posture improves your circulation, which better oxygenates your body and leads to a positive mood and perception. Studies have even shown that seniors who stand and sit upright have more energy and are more confident in life.
- Enhance cognitive functioning. Even though it’s not scientifically proven that proper posture can delay the onset of dementia, a properly aligned spine can aid in communication between neurotransmitters and the brain, allowing for better memory recall.
- Improve blood flow and help with digestive issues. Sitting up straight while you eat can aid in digestion, as your organs aren’t being compressed by slouching.
Oftentimes we notice someone sitting hunched over. Goodness, we do it without realizing that our own posture needs some work, too.
Proper posture can be learned at any age. You may have noticed you’ve been starting to slouch. Here are some helpful tips on how to strengthen your spine.
- Strengthen your core. There are many exercises to improve your flexibility and help build a better posture.
- Tai chi
- Build up your muscles. Strength training to muscle growth is a well kept secret for older adults. Start out with light weights, like those 2lb weights. They may feel really easy to lift, but after a few times, they will feel heavier. Using light weights (2lbs), slowly lift them over your head to force your muscles to work harder.
- Go for a walk! Taking a walk around your block is a great way to practice weight bearing exercises. Posture and feeling grounded are two things we can do to make significant improvements on our posture.
- Stop falling into a sedentary lifestyle. Make an absolute effort to get up and move around every ½ an hour. It will help reduce the degeneration of the vertebrae. Sitting (especially if you slouch) puts pressure on your spine, including the intervertebral discs, ligaments.
- Get up from wherever you are sitting or laying down too long. There is a neurological shut-down in our legs and our calorie burning is reduced significantly when we are sitting. Imagine yourself sitting at a desk with the chair pulled close, you can feel the pressure in your knees caused by your rump’s weight on them. Sitting down slows the circulation of blood to our legs. Our glutes (butt) muscles and hamstrings (back of our thighs), and calves have pressure placed upon them which causes an imbalance. This leads us to changing our posture (moving around) and placing the tension on the joints as our body tries to readjust itself to gain its balance back.
- Manage your weight to prevent back strain. Studies show eating on smaller plates leads to weight loss.
- Get in the pool or go to the beach. Try water therapy. We have no weight in the water. There is no gravity, so we are not pressing hard on our joints. Swim or walk back and forth in the pool. It feels good, too. If you want to get serious about it, take a class. Water therapy will be as complex as a person wants it to be. The easiest thing someone can do for water therapy is jog, lift weights, or swim in a pool. For those who prefer something more orthodox, there are plenty of underwater treadmills out there.
- Sleep on your side and make sure your head is level with your neck. make sure that your pillow fills and supports the curve of your neck. “To prevent your head from tilting down towards your bed, make sure your pillow is not too low and that your ears are stacked in a straight line”.
Sitting No- Nos:
- No slumping!
- No crossing your knees, andles, or arms.
- No dangling your feet.
- Sitting for too long without a walking break.
- Avoid neck strain for extended periods of time, such as watching TV, looking at your computer monitor, or reading.
- Always have full back support, especially for your lower back.
We can all remember our Mom’s sternly telling us to “Sit up straight”!
We hope this blog helps you better understand the importance of posture and why you may be experiencing pain, often in the morning time, and how you can go about preventing further through practicing proper posture techniques. Senior Healthcare Advisors care about you and your health. Call 888-809-1463 TTY/711 to find out what resources are available through your current health plan and if there is a better play to suit your specific needs.