For most people, when you live your daily life, unless your body hurts, you probably ignore it. You’ve got places to go, people to see, things to do, and your body is pretty low on your list of priorities. Here are 3 reasons that, as you age, paying attention to what you do with your body, can keep it out of pain and functioning properly.
Posture affects Function
Your posture matters. Even if you stand up straight in yoga class, what you do with your other 15 waking hours has a much bigger effect on how your body feels and how it moves. Think about it. Say you spend 8 hours sitting at a desk in a slouched or head forward position. When you go to stand up, you feel pretty stiff. Your neck and back hurt, your hips might hurt, perhaps even your jaw.
When you slouch, even for half an hour, gravity pulls on you the whole time. The muscles in back of your neck and back are straining, trying to resist gravity, and over time they hurt. The muscles in front (your chest and shoulders) get tighter over time and it can eventually impact your breathing and affect your heart health. Poor posture can also cause incontinence, constipation, and heartburn and slow digestion.
Standing and sitting up straight should be your goal, in terms of what you do with your body all day. If you are driving, at a desk, washing dishes, or walking, try to stack your head over your hips. if you are standing, also stack your hips over your feet. This will improve the tightness in your neck and shoulders, as well as your lower back.
There are a few of posture tricks I recommend.
- If you wonder if you have good posture, stand against a wall. Gently press your heels, pelvis, ribs, and back of your head against the wall. Are you comfortable or is it a strain to stand like this? If it’s comfortable, you probably naturally stand with good posture. If you feel like you are straining, most likely you don’t. Practice standing against the wall for a minute multiple times a day and eventually you will start to feel less struggle and more ease with standing up straight. There are also many yoga poses that can help. Read this post for more.
- In the car, sit up straight with the back of your head against the headrest. Adjust your mirrors so that you have the proper view from this position. When you drive, if you are not seeing what you should in your mirrors, that’s a little reminder to adjust your posture.
- If you work at a desk or are on a computer all day, put a post-it note on your monitor that stays “be upright” or something to that effect. Whether you sit or stand at your desk, there is always a way to slouch or lean while you work. You can also put an alarm or reminder in your phone that goes off periodically as a hint to notice your posture.
Repetitive movements can cause pain
There is a reason that Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, and Runner’s Knee exist as diagnoses. These types of sports cause certain injuries due to their repetitive nature. When all you do is run, your body only goes through one plane of motion. Unless you cross-train (which I highly recommend) you can end up with 0ne of these types of injuries. If you add poor alignment on top of that, you are asking for injury.
Typing, texting, even how we hold our phones, can cause repetitive strain. How many hours a day do you spend interacting with your devices? Do you notice your thumbs or wrists starting to hurt?
Moving the body in all 3 planes of motion on a regular basis prevents these types of injuries from happening. When you strengthen and stretch in all directions, your body feels and functions better. For more on that, please read this post.
Cross-training will help with any sport or activity, even simply living. When you practice yoga, pilates, or functional weight training, each side of your body goes through the same range of motion. Instead of only certain muscles working on one side, all muscles work equally on both sides. As you age, cross-training becomes even more important because your body doesn’t heal as well as it did when you were 20. Any injury, repetitive strain or not, will take longer to heal and keep you out of your sport or activity.
Cross-training will strengthen the muscles that don’t get used during your sport to balance the body. This is especially important for sports like golf and tennis where one side is dominant. Generally speaking, we are one-side dominant creatures, so cross training will keep you strong and mobile for your daily activities as well. I think of it as cross-training for life.
If your hands or wrists bother you from “devicing,” doing wrist and hand stretches can help. Here are some in the photo below.
Humans are Master Compensators
I say this all the time, Humans are Master Compensators. We will get a movement done, even if it’s not the most efficient way to move. We start off our life moving efficiently as babies, but somewhere along the way, we lose it.
Even something as basic as walking can cause problems if you are not using your glutes to propel you forward. If your hamstrings, hips, or lower back hurt while you walk, you may be suffering from gluteal amnesia (it’s actually a thing). Learning to turn your glutes back on can give you more strength and power with your movements, whether you are walking, running, swimming, biking, going up stairs, or lifting a laundry basket.
When you don’t use your glutes, other muscles will step in. The problem is those other muscles are secondary actors and don’t have the strength to do what the glutes should be doing. When those muscles, like the hamstrings and hip flexors, are overused, they can become painful. Bringing conscious awareness to your glutes while walking, running, or other activities, will help them activate when you need them and over time break their “amnesia.”
Coming later in January: Healthy Back After 50! online course and Save Your Back After 50 mini-course! These two online courses offer straightforward ways to have a stronger, healthier back when you are over 50. Healthy Back After 50! starts January 29, registration opens January 12, 2024. Save Your Back After 50 will be available February 1.
Ongoing: Purple Room Yoga offers online classes for people over 50 who want to stay active and feel comfortable and at ease in their body and mind. Take 30, 45, or 60 minute yoga classes for beginners through experienced students, stretch classes, meditation, and mindful core. All classes can be taken live over Zoom or on demand. Click here to see the full schedule of classes, and here to see the extensive on demand video library!
Email Janine at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free 15 minute online consultation to get support toward meeting your body/mind fitness goals!