When I was a kid, my Grandma would constantly admonish me to “sit up straight” (along with “don’t cross your eyes”, but that’s a different post). My Mom also had that advice, more along the lines of “don’t slouch”. My Dad’s warning was “stand up straight”.
Neither Mom or Grandma are around anymore (at least not within earshot), but Dad is. Thankfully, I don’t hear the chastisement these days. That’s because for the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to actually “straighten up”; in the literal sense, mind you.
Two conditions have always challenged me with my posture: I’m very lazy and I’m very flexible. Add in more time to “loaf” in front of the computer and TV and I had a recipe for terrible back punishment in my future (just call me Igor).
It took a series of painful neck aches (and resulting headaches) to convince me my slouching ways had to go. That’s easy to say and my laziness threatened to thwart my improvement plans early on.
Fortunately, I had also decided I needed to get on a regular exercise plan again. I knew my 50-something body was beyond changing, but it wasn’t beyond saving! I developed a simple plan of light, but consistent exercising: daily work on abs and flexibility and three times a week on upper body weights.
With the strengthening of muscles taken care of, I next needed to work on my seating areas. For my couch, I had a convenient pillow (Gators!) given to me by my niece that I placed by the small of my back to encourage a more upright posture. For the dining table, I had a smaller pillow (Humpty Dumpty!) given to me by a friend. For the computer chair, I had a big mushy pillow that I used for higher up on the back to “lean” into.
I have also concentrated on how I walk and stand. Part of the benefits of exercising every day is you become more aware of your muscles. I know when I’m slouching because I can feel it in my stomach muscles even sooner than my back. A quick “suck in of the gut” straightens me right up (helpful even though I don’t really have a “gut” to suck in).
It’s an ongoing process, like any other great weakness a person can have. It requires constant mental awareness to avoid slipping back into a lazy posture position. The benefits are many, tighter stomach, easier walk, taller height (especially important when going up for an overhead on the tennis courts, since my jumping ability is…modest). Plus, you just feel better. If you’ve never had bad posture, it’s a little tough to understand.
I’ve had a few “rewards” for my efforts recently. At a lunch with my Dad a few weeks ago, he commented that I seemed to be getting taller. At a Passover seder this month, a different family member said I had excellent posture (if only!).
I don’t know if my efforts have been “in time” to spare me back issues as I get older, but I’m pleased that I have been able to keep this commitment after so many years ignoring the “problem”.
I’m sure that if Mom and Grandma were around, they would be pleased too, if only so they could cross that one of many items off their Jeffrey improvement list!