May has been all about posture and bikes. Bikes and posture. They are two things that Dr. Emily is pretty passionate about. We've said it before, and it still holds true--good posture isn't a sometimes thing; it's an all the time thing. With all of our constant use of technology, it's really easy to practice bad posture. I'm going to alter the famous Will Durant quote to read, "we are what we repeatedly do. [Bad posture], then, is not an act, but a habit."
Like any bad habit though, we can fight it and correct it! This week, we are going to talk about five stretches/exercises to give you better posture. When doing these keep in mind that none of these should hurt or cause you pain. A stretching feeling is ok, but if these are painful, STOP!
1. Pectoralis Stretch
Option 1 - Doorway Stretches
Standing in a doorway (or park shelter post), position your arm and shoulder at 90° angles. Rest your hand and forearm along the door, and move your body forward until you feel a stretch in your pectoral muscles. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Perform 3-4 times throughout the day.
Option 2 - Foam Roller Gravity Assisted Stretches
This works best if you have a long (36") foam roller. Lay the foam roller on the ground, then lay on top of the foam roller, so your spine is on top of the foam roller. Bring your shoulders up to make a 90° angle with your body and bend your elbows so they also form a 90° angle. Then let gravity do its thing and open up your chest. You can play with the angles of your shoulders/arms a bit to find the key stretch for you. Hold this for 20-30 seconds. Perform 3-4 times throughout the day.
2. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Sitting on a chair, let your arms just relax by your side comfortably. From this position, think of squeezing your shoulder blades together. Make sure you keep you shoulders relaxed. Think of squeezing the shoulder blades BACK and DOWN. I like to visualize trying to hold a marker between my shoulder blades. Hold the squeezed position for 8 seconds before releasing. Repeat 5 times. Perform these sets 3-4 times throughout the day.
3. Upper Trapezius Stretch
Start from a sitting position. Slowly bring your right ear towards your right shoulder. Place your right hand over the top of your head to provide some gentle pressure for an added stretch. You can also sit on the palm of your left hand to add more of a stretch. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Perform 3-4 times throughout the day.
4. Levator Scapulae Stretch
This is very similar to the stretch for your upper trapezius. Again, start from a seated position. Slowly bring your chin down and to the right as if you are trying to smell your right under arm (mine smells like spring flowers). Place your right hand over the top of your head to provide some gentle pressure for an added stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Perform 3-4 times throughout the day.
5. Overhead Stretch
From a standing or seated position, move your arms out in front of you. Interlace your fingers, turn your palms away from you, straighten your arms, then move them overhead. Press out through your hands to keep your arms straight. When performing, try and keep your core muscles working, so you don't arch your back. Hold this position breathing deeply through your belly (see last week's post) for 20-30 seconds. Perform 3-4 times throughout the day.
Those aren't so bad! You can do them at home, at work, and anywhere in between (like when you're out hiking with friends and bribe them to take photos for your blog)! And now we can reword that quote to say, "we are what we repeatedly do. [Good posture], then, is not an act, but a habit." Make good posture a habit for you!
Still need some convincing to work on your posture? Studies show that people with upright posture feel more enthusiastic, excited, and strong! Good posture is also associated with higher self-esteem, less social fear, and fewer negative emotions!