That resounding whoosh you hear? Our exercise programs getting away from us during the next two holiday weeks. But there is a positive step we can all take as we stand at holiday parties, pull up to the dining table or drive from place to place.
Make it a point to practice good posture. Think of it as standing up for yourself.
“Posture is such a great place to start,” said Steve Barbuto, a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer at Olympic Physical Therapy, which has numerous locations in the Seattle area. “You don’t develop bad posture overnight, so you won’t fix it in a day or two.”
Even so, you can do yourself a lot of good by embracing a personal posture campaign. And you don’t have to make it obvious—“oh, excuse me while drop and do 20 pushups”—as loved ones and friends gather between now and New Year’s.
“The one thing I would recommend for any of us who stand awhile at parties and gatherings is to find some way to lift up one foot,” said Julie Gudmestad, owner of the Gudmestad Yoga Studio in Portland, where she teaches classes and serves clients as a physical therapist. “Get one foot onto something, like the rung of a chair, a step, a curb, something. Just doing that will lengthen the back and cut down on pain.”
Note that Gudmestad is not suggesting we keep a rigid form and that the knees are never locked.
Gudmestad writes the popular and informative “Anatomy of a Yogi” column for Yoga Journal magazine. She is happy to focus on small changes that can make a big difference during the holidays and beyond.
“Another good thing to do if standing for long periods is to clasp your hands behind you at tailbone,” she said. “Straighten your elbows and that pulls the shoulders and chest back and down. I call it the ‘chest opener.’ “
If you are not worried about partygoers noticing your posture pursuits, then Gudmestad said you back up to an available wall. Bend your knees “just a little” and press or “flatten” your lower back into the wall. This action exercises the abdominal muscles.
For his part, Barbuto said “lightly engaging your abdominal muscles but not 100 percent” can change your holiday energy and stress levels for the better (one up, the other down). He likened your abs to “marathon muscles” best worked a little bit at a time over a long time rather than more intense, shorter bursts.”
“We stabilize our bodies from the inside out,” he said. “Abdominal muscles stabilize us, provide more balance and support. Most other muscles are there for movement. The abs support all of that movement.”
The simple act of tensing the ab muscles while standing at a party or waiting at a stoplight in the car can change your posture for the better. You can even so some ab clenching while falling asleep or waking up. Just remember Barbuto’s advice of not aiming for 100 percent exertion of the abs.
Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.