18 Sep Getting your 5-a-day
We all know the importance of getting our 5 portions of fruit and veg every day well this is my take on the idea applied to some simple mobility/flexibilty work that we would all benefit form on a daily basis. Most people now have sedentary jobs and find themselves being in front of a computer either all day or a substantial part of it. The effects of this sedentary lifestyle on the body are often create a more kyphotic posture, flattening the lumbar curve and exaggerating both the thoracic and cervical curves. The musculature of the back, as a generalisation, gets lengthened whilst that on the front gets shortened and the joints of the spine start to stiffen and lose their mobilty. Along with this the hips also stiffen and the glutes get over stretched and switch off. The hamstrings shorten and the quads lengthen and so on it goes through the body.
So what can we do to help alleviate the problems that can result from all this?To begin with do some simple lumbar rotations which are done whilst lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. The knees are roated from side to side like a metronome. The range of motion on these, or any of the following exercises, should not be forced but kept within what you can comfortably do while looking to gradually increase the range of movement over time.
Following the lumbar rotations you can turn onto your side and bring your knees up so they are perpendicular to your body. With both arms pointing forward you slowly rotate back as though you were drawing the string on a bow and arrow before reversing the process to finish. In each direction really concentrate on the movement being initiated within the spine so you can feel yourself rotating through the vertebral joints.
Having worked on the rotational aspects of the movement of the spine we now move to our hands and knees to work the spine in flexion and extension. In the seated position when we hunch over the spine, in the thoracic area especially, flexes. We often end up relatively fixed in this position and the next exercise is designed to help bring back more balanced movement in both flexion and extension. Keeping the abdominals tight sink between your shoulder blades before pushing back up into as high an arch as you can manage.
From working the back we now look to give the front of our body a good stretch using a classic yoga pose, the cobra. This was described by Mike Reinold as possibly one of the best postural stretches you can do and I can’t really disagree with him. To perform the stretch lie prone on the floor and stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders and your elbows should be against the side of your body. Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor. On an inhalation begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain contact with your pubis and the floor. As you lift think of looking slightly upwards and remember you are trying to lift the chest rather than thrust it forward.
To finish off is the squat. For all those who say they can’t squat I’d like to know how you get in and out of your seat. We can all squat, we almost all of us, but sometimes we’ve forgotten how to do the movement properly and it’s the poor form that makes people feel they can’t squat without pain. Initially, as with all the movements, you might not get a full range of movement but persevere and you’ll get there. To begin with take a shoulder width stance, wider or narrower as required, and flare your feet slightly. To begin the movement simply stick your bum back whist breaking at the knees. Continue the movement by looking to descend in-between the knees and not by simply pushing your hips further backwards. As you descend you want to keep your spine upright and to help with this swing your arms up as you go down. Ideally you want to descend until the crease that forms at your hips is below your knees but always work within your capabilities and look to improve the range of movement over time. This video describes the movement very well.
Done once or twice a day for 10-15 repetitions each these are a great way to help reduce the aches and pains we can all suffer from and not only is there five of them but they’ll take you about 5minutes to do. As with all exercise remember to check that it is safe for you to do the exercises mentioned here.