One thing that is sure to make you look older is poor posture. So improving your posture is a sure way to make any midlife woman look and feel younger. Improving your posture also helps to reduce back pain, improve balance and even make breathing easier.
Disclaimer: Use these exercises at your own risk. Consult a physiotherapist to determine if these exercises are right for you, especially if you have back pain, osteoporosis or a chronic injury.
The exercises you do depend on the problem areas. You can get a good idea by taking a couple of selfies. One from the front and one from the side. The one from the side will give you the best idea, but the one from the front can also show side to side imbalances and rounded shoulder posture.
There are many types of posture issues. I will examine the three of the most common.
Head poking forward
This is a fairly common posture as people get older. You can think of this as the chicken neck posture. If your chin juts forward and you have trouble resting your head when lying down without a pillow, you may have this type of posture. You can have a photo taken of yourself look to see the position of your head relative to your body. If your head is forward and your upper back is rounded then you have forward head posture.
It can result in decreased range of motion in the neck and shoulders, tension headaches, neck and upper back pain.
It can be caused be excessive bending forward for texting, poor ergonomics so you are looking down while using a computer screen, or lack of strength in the upper back.
This exercise can be performed lying done or standing with your back against a wall. I’ll explain how to do it lying down.
Lie flat on your back (on a mat) with a small towel rolled under your neck. If you can’t put your head comfortable down, then use a folded towel under your head as well. While pushing your head back, tuck your chin in towards your chest. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
Supine head lift
Lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides or in a T position. While looking down at the mat, lift your head up. This movement can be compared to pulling away from a mirror.
Rounded shoulder posture
This posture is similar to the last one, and can often be found in combination with it. In this posture the shoulders come forward and are rotated inward. If you stand the way you normally do and let yours arms hang down at your sides you can tell if you have this type of posture. A correct posture would be with hands facing towards your sides. If your hands naturally turn inward it means your shoulders are likely rounded inward.
It can result in disc compression in the cervical spine and decreased shoulder range of motion.
Rounded shoulder posture is usually caused by poor posture habits. Either standing with shoulders rounded forward, or lots of computer use can contribute to rounded shoulder posture. Sometimes you may just stand that way because of lack of confidence and it starts to become a habit.
Use a doorway or a corner of a wall. Lift your arm up to chest height with your elbow bent. Push your forearm against the wall until you feel a stretch in your chest/shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with a straight arm, pushing your hand against the wall.
While standing grab one arm with the opposite hand. Pull back, lifting the hands away from the back.
Anchor the tubing to a door or sturdy railing. Hold both handles and stand back until there is a slight tension on the tubing with your arms straight. Now pull back, bending the elbows and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Keep the forearms parallel to the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Anterior pelvic tilt
This type of posture occurs when your hips tilt forward. It can look like your belly is forward and you have an excessive curve in your lower spine. It can cause low back pain and it also makes you look like you have a larger belly than you really do (something none of us want).
This is usually caused by tight hip flexors and weak glute muscles that result from too much sitting.
Hip flexor stretch
This exercise helps to stretch the muscles at the front of your hips. Kneel down on one knee. Place the other foot on the floor with you knee bent. Slide the back leg back or move the front leg forward until you feel a stretch in the hip crease. Keep the knee of the front leg over the ankle. Hold for 30 seconds.
This exercise helps to strengthen your glute muscles. Lie on your back. Place your feet on the floor, about hip width apart, with your knees bent. Press your shoulders into the mat. Slowly lift the hips off the mat. Hold for 5 seconds. Bring your hips down to the mat. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
One last exercise
This last exercise is a general one that helps to improve the stability of your core muscles so your spine has the support it needs. This helps with a variety of posture issues. It also helps to prevent back pain.
The plank is beneficial to posture because it helps to strengthen the inner muscles of the core which are needed to help keep you upright in a correct posture.
Stand on your stomach. Place your elbows under your shoulders and lift your body up. Your hips should not be up too high and they should not be sagging. Stop if you feel any back pain. If this is too challenging right now, then try an elevated version where your elbows are resting on a chair placed against a wall.
Having poor posture habits can create lasting posture issues. By using these simple exercises you can help to reduce the effects of your habits and create a posture that makes you look and feel younger and more confident. For more ideas on getting started with exercise, you can download a free exercise plan.