Fit For Life Exercise Newsletter 5!
Updated: Jan 11
This week we will briefly look at #posture, keeping in mind that we may be sitting (and slouching) regularly during the day! Sustained poor or slouched posture can have a detrimental effect on muscle and joint function, cause discomfort and negatively effects many bodily functions (e.g. digestion) of #Older Adults. We have included an exercise program aiming to off-set some of the detrimental effects of poor sitting posture!
What is posture?
Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Without posture, our skeleton and the muscles that control posture, we would simply fall to the ground. We should try to avoid maintaining a fixed posture and avoid sitting for long periods. We should move and do exercises regularly throughout the day for best health!
What is ‘good’ posture?
There is no one perfect ‘good’ posture and recent research points to avoiding sustained static postures and keeping moving! Good posture is purported to be the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity.
Proper standing posture involves aligning the body from head to toe as best as you can. The placement or alignment of various parts of the body is critical in maintaining postural balance and performing exercises in a standing position.
It is important to observe the following key points when checking somebodies’ posture:
- Feet should be parallel, toes should face forward, and weight should be evenly distributed over both feet. Check the heels of shoes for signs of uneven wear indicating poor distributing of weight during walking.
- Knees should be parallel and your toes should face forward. Your knees should not be flexed (bent) or hyper extended (locked), but loosely held straight.
- Buttocks should be tucked down and forward, with the belly button pulled in. Hips should be in line with the knees.
- Shoulders should be pulled back, down, and relaxed, while lifting the chest and rib cage. Be careful not to cause an exaggerated arch in the back. The shoulders should be in line with the hips.
- Head should be centred squarely above the shoulders and balanced evenly with chin parallel to the floor. Imagine that the top of your head is being pulled towards the ceiling. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders. Avoid tucking your chin or leaning your head forward.
- Ears over shoulders over hips
- Feet on the ground.
- 90-degree angle @ hips & knees
Importance of posture
Postural changes are an inevitable part of aging. Older adults daily postural habits while sleeping, sitting, standing and performing various physical activities have a cumulative effect on their posture as they age. However, older adults can control and delay some of these changes with exercise training.
The importance of maintaining proper posture is not just for an individual’s appearance but also to enhance movement efficiency, to enhance physiological processes (e.g. digestion), to prevent body aches and pains and to lower your risk for injuries. Please see the image below for examples of neutral sitting posture and common abnormal or antalgic postures.
Posture can be ‘fixed’ as in a structural abnormality e.g. fixed kyphosis or scoliosis. And commonly poor posture is not fixed though neutral sitting posture cannot be maintained by the person due to the effect of gravity, muscle weakness, incorrect chair etc.
The images on the right show an example of a common sitting posture that we come across – posterior pelvic tilt with thoracic kyphosis & forward head & posterior pelvic tilt. It illustrates that the effect of gravity exacerbates the antalgic posture.
Also, we see the sliding and shear forces that can occur to make the patient uncomfortable and increase pressure at the sacrum and mid back. This can lead to neck, spine and muscle pain and skin integrity issues and discomfort. This antalgic sitting posture may also limit range of motion of the limbs, limit STS independence and decrease the person’s ability to view and interact with their surrounds and with people.
If you notice an Older Adult sitting like this in your nursing home you should try to see can they actively ‘sit tall’ or actively improve their posture? Consider if the chair they are sitting in is suitable? Consider if they have a fixed structural or non-fixed posture (e.g. 2ry muscle weakness or gravity)? Remember even very fit younger adults cannot stand or sit with ideal posture all the time! If you are concerned about an Older Adults posture, please do highlight it to the MDT and problem-solve and refer them to the physio or OT for review if indicated!
Below you will find exercises that will help to improve posture – the exercises will help to move body parts, stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles!
Newsletter 5 exercise program
Warm up for 10-15mins, do the exercises, then cool down & stretch for 5-10mins! Do in sitting or standing (depending on individual’s ability), completing 1-3 sets of 6-10reps 2-3 times per week on alternate days. Complete all in a pain free and slow and controlled manner!
Exercises: do below and you can include the leg exercises (leg kicks, ankle exercises and seated marching) and stretches (e.g. leg extension, ankle dorsiflex, chest and neck stretch) from the other newsletters!
You can download the home exercise program here:
Patricia O'Donnell GSR CAT BSc MSc