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Wellness Check: Physical Fitness After Forty

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Health

As we get into our forties, fifties and sixties, all those years of desk jobs, lap tops, texting and just general “hunching” have a cumulative effect. The result? Poor posture, which is all too often reinforced by evenings spent lounging in front of the television. Poor posture may seem like a minor problem at first. However, just like a car with a wheel alignment issue, the problem may not be bothersome initially, but after a long road trip your wheels just might fall off!

THE PROBLEM OF POSTURE

Both men and women begin to experience a noticeable loss in muscle mass and strength during these decades and, in women, bones can become brittle and weak. Poor posture exacerbates both of these conditions and leads to chronic back pain, sciatica, and transference of stress to adjoining muscles and body parts. The good news is that, with the right exercise program and dedicated effort, poor posture can be corrected relatively easily. But it’s more than a matter of simply sitting up straight! Below are the five key areas you need to focus on to improve both your posture and your overall health.

Skeletal Alignment: Skeletal alignment is the positioning of body parts in relation to one another. It is the key to good, strong posture. If you are experiencing chronic neck, shoulder or back pain, you likely need to focus on this area. Some even attribute migraines and fibromyalgia to skeletal alignment issues.

Muscular Balance: Achieving and maintaining muscular balance means eliminating the imbalances that put heavy strain on different areas of the body. Our bodies function optimally when all our muscles, tendons and bones are equally healthy and strong. When we grow weak in one area, we naturally compensate with stronger areas, which creates an imbalance that over time leads to strain and injury.

Cardio Endurance and Recovery: The cardiovascular system is paramount to overall health. Without healthy blood flow, our muscles and extremities cannot be properly nourished. And since poor posture can hamper your lung capacity, improving your cardio is one step toward improving your posture. Get your heart pumping and fill your body with the good, fresh oxygen that it needs.

Flexibility: Do you feel increasingly stiff as the years go by? Remaining flexible is one of the keys to staying young. A lack of flexibility also contributes to muscular imbalance and results in poor posture.

Balance and Stability:

You may not be ready to think about the years when falling is a major risk, but working on balance and stability now will keep you healthy long into the future. According to Harvard Medical School, at least one out of three people over the age of 65 falls every year. Balance is crucial for good posture, and for good health.

STANDING STRONG

So how are you going to achieve all these factors that contribute to excellent posture? One way is to consult with a personal trainer who can custom design an exercise program tailored to your specific body and lifestyle and work with you to achieve your goals.

Other excellent options include yoga, pilates, core strengthening and stretches, all of which will help your body rebalance, strengthen, and improve your posture. For cardio, nothing beats running. If you find that running is too hard on your knees or back, you can try power walking instead (but make it fast!). For a great cardio workout that’s easy on your joints, swim laps at your local pool. Skip the breast stroke – get your heart rate up!

Good posture will reduce those aches and pains created by your body compensating for its own weaknesses and imbalances. By improving your posture, you’ll find exercise more enjoyable and your overall fitness level improved. Proper posture will truly improve your quality of life.

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Darcy Dommett is the owner-operator of studio4athletics in Victoria, BC. He is a health and fitness coach, martial arts instructor, dancer and yogi. Contact darcy@studio4athletics.com or visit www.studio4athletics.com

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