It’s very common to gradually end up with a “forward leaning” posture that can contribute to the risk for falls. Proper alignment is often described as being “lifted up” by a string with the head, shoulders, hips, and knees all in alignment. When the shoulders and head round forward your center of gravity moves forward out of alignment, increasing the risk of falling. Good posture keeps the shoulders open and centered (not rounded forward) to support better alignment and walking balance – but it requires a little special attention.
Part of the challenge is that many daily activities (washing dishes, preparing meals, yard work) occur in front of the body, therefore repeatedly contracting and shortening the chest muscles. In contrast very few daily activities require you to contract and shorten the upper back muscles, so they lengthen which contributes to poor posture.
To counteract this common muscle imbalance, the standing chest stretch helps you lengthen the chest muscles. The Reach and Squeeze exercise presented in an earlier column also helps strengthen back muscles to help equalize strength between the chest and upper back.
*Follow physician advice on exercise
Stand in a doorway with your arms on the door-jam and elbows at a 90° angle as shown. Place the right foot slightly in front of the left for stability and control. Gently lean forward to stretch the chest muscles. Hold for 15-30 seconds while breathing normally. Relax, shake out the arms and repeat exercise by placing the left foot in front and leaning forward. Repeat full sequence 3 times
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