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Almost everyone I know (including myself) needs to work on their posture; we all sit way too much, and it is almost impossible to sit for long periods without becoming slightly rounded forward. I don't even have a desk job and I still spend way too much time hunched at my desk writing columns and doing office work!
Sure, for most of us some amount of sitting is a necessary evil, but that doesn't mean you can't take steps to mitigate the damages!
4 Ways to Improve Your Posture
1. Take the colour challenge.
Pick a colour to use as your "mindfulness trigger."
Your mission is to watch for your chosen colour throughout your day. When you notice it, take a moment to assess your posture. Check if your ears, shoulders and hips are stacked over top of each other. If your body is not aligned properly, which is the case for most of us, sit or stand up straight to draw your shoulders and head back.
2. Aim to work up to 10,000 steps per day. The more you move around the less time you will spend sitting!
Wear a pedometer and challenge yourself to take 10,000 steps per day.
Ways to weave motion into your day:
1. Walk with a friend at lunch or with your partner after work.
2. Get off one subway stop too soon and walk to your destination.
3. Set an alarm to go off once an hour that reminds you to get up and walk around. Get water or go for a stroll around the office.
4. Take the stairs.
5. Go for a walking talk with a co-worker instead of phoning or emailing them.
6. Get a dog and walk it daily.
7. Pick posture appropriate exercises at the gym
At the gym focus on strengthening your upper back, neck and core, and improving your balance.
To strengthen your upper back try ‘standing single arm cable rows’.
Standing single arm cable rows: Start standing facing the cable machine in a staggered stance, right leg forward. Grab the D handle with your right hand, arm straight out in front of you. Bend your left arm so that your elbow is tucked into your side. Row your right arm back as you press your left arm forward. Return your arms back to their starting position and repeat. Initiate row from your upper back.
To strengthen you core try ‘bird dogs’.
Bird-dog: Start on your hands and knees, hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between all four of your limbs. Without shifting, straighten your opposite arm and leg. Keep your support leg straight. Use your core. Return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired repetitions and then switch sides. If you can, place a water bottle on your back. Don’t let it fall off as you move.
To improve your balance try ‘drunk walks'.
Drunk walks: Start standing. Place your right heel in front of your left toes as if you were walking on a tightrope. Take three steps along the rope. Look ahead, NOT down. After three steps, pause and make sure your shoulders are back, your core is engaged and you are looking straight ahead. Then, close your eyes and stay stable. Open your eyes and continue.
4. At work make a commitment to break up the time you spend sitting.
At regular intervals get up, walk around, stretch and/or do work standing. As an added bonus, getting up and going for a walk will help you accumulate your steps! Move more and sit less!
For example, use a filling cabinet to set yourself up a make-shift standing desk, walk to speak with a colleague instead of phoning them, pace as you take phone calls or invest in a standing desk.
Here are three of my favorite ‘work appropriate’ stretches –
Door frame chest stretch: Place the forearm of one arm on the edge of a door frame at roughly chest height. Your arm should be bent at a 90̊ angle. Turn your body gently away from the arm so you feel a slight stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch and repeat on the opposite arm.
Seated twist: It is almost impossible to have good posture if you can't rotate properly. Extension of the spine (the ability to sit up straight) and rotation work together!
Sit tall in your chair. Reach your left hand across your body so it sits on the outside of your right knee. Use your left hand to pull GENTLY on your right knee so you rotate to the right. Hold for 15 seconds and then switch sides.
Wall Y to W's: Stand with your bum and back against a wall. Core engaged, legs shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and feet roughly half a foot in front of the wall. Your lower back should be neutral, which means you should be able to fit your fingers, but not your entire hand, between your lower spine and the wall.
Form a W with your arms against the wall. Keep your arms as close to the wall as you can as you straighten them until they form a Y with your body. Make sure your spine stays neutral. It shouldn't arch as you move your arms, even if that means the back of your hands move away from the wall. Return your arms back to the W position and repeat five to 10 times.
Kathleen Trotter, MS (Exercise Science), BA (Honours) is an ironman competitor, personal trainer and writer. She is passionate about fitness and health and trains a wide variety of clients ranging from the avid athlete to individuals living with osteoporosis, Parkinson's and scoliosi. For more great articles and fitness tips visit: www.kathleentrotter.com and join Kathleen's newsletter.