To Your Health
September, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 09)
Here is a simple balance test you can use to test yourself: Simply stand on one foot for 30 seconds. If you cannot balance on one leg for 30 seconds, or if you flail about, your internal perception of where your body is in space does not agree with true reality.
As a result, when you move or exercise, your motion is not symmetrical and you will compensate by working some muscles more and others less.
One-leg balance exercises are tools to align our internal perceptions of posture with external reality. When one-leg balance is worse on one side than the other, there is unbalanced muscle function and joint stress. A 1997 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that older people who could not balance on one leg had more than twice the risk of being injured in a fall.
Most people with poor posture, as well as nearly all people with low back pain, have weak balance on one or both sides. Not surprisingly, after I adjust patients with balance issues, they frequently tell me that not only do they feel better, they also report being able to balance better and "feel lighter." Patients feel lighter after an adjustment because a stressed posture requires more energy to maintain balance; when they are aligned, they can balance with less effort.
Step 3: Retrain Your Body
By strengthening your posture with 10 minutes a day of posture exercise, along with regular chiropractic care, you can stand taller, with less pain, and actually age better. Daily posture exercise creates an awareness of body placement, helps stretch shortened muscles and ligaments, and gives people the ability to stay active. According to a 2001 study in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, posture exercises also strengthen muscles that have weakened. Stronger posture not only helps back and neck pain; patients also report improvement with problems ranging from knee pain to headaches, and many tell me they feel, and look, taller.
The relationship between posture and general health is not surprising, since posture is the physical end result of how your body is dealing with the millions of inputs about your environment the brain receives from the nervous system every second. In fact, if you want to know how a person is feeling today, look at their posture and how they move. Is their motion stiff and guarded, like an old person? Or do they move smoothly, with grace and ease? When someone has strong posture, you look at them and know they have energy and vitality.
Simple and inexpensive tools, such as exercise balls, can help you begin on a path to strengthen your balance and posture. Remember, safety first: Consider using a ball that will not explosively deflate if punctured.
People tell me they like doing their posture exercises because they notice a difference in how they feel; they can breathe deeper, and have less stress and more energy. But I know the biggest benefit is this: If I can help keep them moving well as they get older, they will be able to stay active, exercise and feel good as they age.
Teach Your Children About Good Posture
Teach your children the following posture exercises, part of the "Straighten Up America" (www.straightenupamerica.org) spinal health program, and start them on the road to a lifetime of proper posture. Note: Always check with your doctor first to make sure this program is appropriate to your child's specific health needs, and let them know if any exercise causes your child pain.
The Inner Winner
- Stand straight and tall with your head high.
- Put your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in a straight line.
- Pull your belly button toward your spine.