I’m sometimes surprised to find that my idea for the monthly article coincides with what is being celebrated during that month. This was one of those months; who knew that May was “Better Posture Month!” It’s a great topic though, and this month you’ll get my top recommendations for keeping that lovely posture throughout your life.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, you remember John Wayne; he was one of the greats! Well, what you may not know is that his unique walk is the best thing you can do for your posture. Yup! The old cowboy wasn’t just inventing a new swagger, he was protecting his back.

Many of us are in such a big hurry all the time, rushing here and there, that we don’t pay enough attention to the way we walk. Until it begins to interfere with our health in the form of hip or knee replacements and back issues... Follow John Wayne’s advice and “slow down there, pardner!” Stop and square your shoulders. Inhale, and feel as though you’re lifting your rib cage up toward your head. This automatically lengthens your spine without placing more tension in your shoulders or lower back. Now keep that lovely posture as you move your right leg forward, leading from the hip, not the knee. Make the effort to move from your hip joint while pushing off your back foot. Swing your arms from those squared shoulders and don’t be afraid to sway those hips! Go slowly at first, and practice your new sexy swagger around the house until it becomes second nature. Your body will thank you.

Biking has recently become one of the Boomer generations favorite hobbies, and is a fabulous way to stay in shape. Everywhere I travel, I’m delighted to find so many bikers on bike paths, roads and in parks. When we’re biking, however, we’re not in a posture that’s beneficial for our hips and backs, so it’s very important to remember to stretch both before and after your biking adventure. I recommend a minute or two of good hamstring and shoulder stretches before getting on your bike and then some deeper stretching when you return from your ride.

• For your shoulder stretch, sit in the middle of a straight-back chair, feet flat on the floor, hands on the lower back of the chair. Then, lean forward with a flat back and stretch your ribcage up and out as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Breathe deeply for one minute, then relax.

• Then for your hamstrings, slide yourself slightly forward in the chair, hands on the side of the chair near your butt. With your left foot flat on the floor, stretch your right leg out, “dig” your heel into the floor, and lean forward with a straight back until you feel a gentle “pull” in your hamstring. Be gentle, your muscles aren’t warmed-up yet. Switch and stretch the other leg, and off you go!

• When you return, spend five minutes or more stretching before taking your shower. Your muscles are warmed-up now, so now is the time to do deeper stretches. Complete both hamstring and shoulder stretches, and also this next stretch for your piriformis. The piriformis stretch that gives you the biggest bang for your effort is a yoga pose called Sleeping Pigeon. Start out on all fours, kneeling so that you look like a table. Bring your right knee forward and place it between your hands on the floor with the lower leg angled slightly toward your left wrist. Lower your body down on top of the legs as far as possible (you can hold yourself up with your hands or arms) and stretch the left leg out straight behind you. Relax and breathe deeply for two minutes.

To come out of the position, place your palms under your shoulders, inhale, and press into your palms as you lift your body back to table position and repeat with the opposite leg. This exercise stretches all the muscles surrounding your sciatic nerve and helps prevent low back issues, which can wreak havoc with our posture.

Lastly, here’s a very easy, yet powerful exercise that I recommend completing once an hour. We all spend a lot of time hunched in front of our computers these days, which can cause neck and shoulder tension that then affects our posture – not mention that it’s painful! A simple preventative is to set your watch or desktop calendar to remind you to STOP every hour; close your eyes so that you don’t get distracted by the next e-mail or facebook post. Lengthen your spine, then take the fingers of both hands and grasp your Trapezius, that thick muscle on each side of your neck where it meets your shoulders, you can’t miss it. Squeeze as hard as you can without pain; a little discomfort is normal, but if it’s painful, let off a little. Continue to squeeze and breathe deeply for one minute then slowly let off the pressure. This simple technique restores circulation to the area that’s been tensed all day, relaxes the muscles and can even help prevent those late afternoon tension headaches.

All three of these recommendations are simple, require no special equipment and take very little time. Add them to your daily and sport routine now, and your back, hips, neck and shoulders will thank you with good posture for the rest of your life!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Author's Bio: 

Kathi Casey, "The Healthy Boomer Body Expert" is a renowned health coach, Amazon bestselling author, popular speaker and radio show guest; has appeared on Fox 23, ABC-8 Evening News, and produces her own TV show, “To Your Health.” Casey is a columnist for The South Shore Senior News, Boomers Forever, Boomer-Living and has been published in More Magazine, Life After 50, and others. She’s the founder of The Healthy Boomer Body Center in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Her programs and products help end your chronic back or neck pain, enhance your immune system, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, lose weight and KEEP it off! Her bestselling book "Get Off The Couch, Potato!" is a fun beginner's fitness program that you can start lying on your couch watching TV, and her book “STOP Back Pain” is an international best seller on Amazon. Her blog ranked # 10 in nursingschools.net list of 50 top Health Blogs. For the last 10 years, she’s been teaching people all up and down the East Coast how to take charge of their own Health Care – Regardless of what Congress does! More information can be found on her web site: http://www.HealthyBoomerBody.com