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EXERCISE Posture –The Secret to Looking

Posture –The Secret to Looking and Feeling Younger

Paul D'Arezzo, M

You can take years off your appearance and ease pain in your muscles and joints without expensive surgery, cosmetics or even highly demanding exercise routines. All you need to do is spend a few minutes a day focusing on one of the most important -- and neglected -- aspects of a youthful appearance and an optimally functioning body... posture.

Think of your body as if it were a stack of building blocks - If the blocks are lined up unevenly, the structure is weak and is more likely to collapse. If they're carefully lined up one on top of the other, the structure is strong.

When the body is misaligned, it fails to function as efficiently as possible. Bad posture contributes to arthritis, muscle pain and injuries. These aches and pains cause us to avoid activities that we once enjoyed.

What went wrong? - Modern society has evolved in such a way that we're no longer required to move as much during our day-to-day activities. And when we do move, we do so in the same repetitive ways, not utilizing all of our muscles or our full range of motion. Certain muscles get strong while others get weak -- and we lose correct alignment.

What Is BAD POSTURE?

A rounded back and/or shoulders.

A pelvis that is tilted too far forward or backward.

Too much or too little curve in the lower back.

A head that droops or protrudes too far forward.

A shoulder, hip or other body part that is higher or more forward than the same part on the other side of the body.

A foot, knee or ankle that points to one side.

Better Alignment

By performing the following simple exercises to correct and maintain posture, you can begin to achieve maximum physical function as you age. The following four exercises strengthen and stretch unique muscles in the body that hold us upright and stabilize us -muscles that usually aren't worked by standard aerobic and strength-training exercises.

Ideally, this alignment program should be practiced at least every other day as an adjunct to your usual aerobic, stretching and strength-training regimen.

Although it can take weeks to change posture, you will feel a difference in your alignment after doing the exercises only once.

Posture Improvement Exercises

Exercise

Purpose

What you Need

What to do

Groin Stretch

Stretches and aligns the groin muscles. Over time, it will align your hips and allow your shoulders and back to return to a more anatomically correct position.

A chair, coffee table or ottoman that is the right height so that when you lie on the floor on your back, one leg can rest on top of the object and form an approximate 90-degree angle.

Lie on your back, bend your left leg and place it on top of your "platform." Your left calf muscle should be resting on the platform. Stretch your right leg straight out on the floor, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Place your arms out to the sides, palms up. Rest in this pose for five minutes, allowing gravity to do the work, relaxing the body and letting the muscles stretch. Repeat with your right leg

Table Stretch

Counteracts the tendency to hunch and roll shoulders forward

A table, desk, counter or back of a chair

Stand a few feet from the table, with feet hip-width apart and pointing straight ahead. Lean forward and rest your hands, palms down, on the table so that your legs and torso form a 90-degree angle. Relax. Let your head fall forward between your shoulders, and let gravity do the work. Hold for one to two minutes

Cats and Dogs

Increases flexibility and movement in the pelvis and lower back

A carpet, exercise mat or other comfortable floor surface

Get on your hands and knees so that your back forms a small table. Place your hands directly below your shoulders, fingers pointing forward. Knees should be in line with your hips. Exhale and slowly arch your back upward like a cat, pressing your chin toward your chest. Hold for five seconds.

Then arch in the opposite direction (the way dogs do when they stretch), pulling your head and neck upward and your upper and lower back downward and lifting your buttocks into the air. Hold for five seconds. Smoothly transition from "cat" to "dog" for 10 complete cycles

Face the Wall

Stretches and aligns the muscles of the chest, shoulders and pelvis

A wall

Stand facing the wall with feet hip-width apart, toes turned inward and touching (pigeon-toed). Your chest and nose should almost touch the wall.

Lift your arms straight above your head, shoulder-width apart. Place the backs of your hands on the wall. Hold for one minute, eventually working up to three minutes. You will feel a stretch in your pelvis and shoulders.

At first you only may be able to reach the wall with the sides of your hands. As your muscles align and stretch, you will be able to work up to reaching the wall with the backs of your hands.

Helpful: This may be uncomfortable at first, but after a minute your shoulders will begin to relax

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