Something you quickly learn as a tall person is that the world is set up for people of average height. And while design innovations are making it easier to adjust our furniture, if we are not careful or if we do not have access to adjustable furniture,we will tend toward adapting our postures and behaviours to suit our environments.
Can you think of the conversations you have had where you stoop to hear what is being said? Or travelling in a cramped seat for hours on end, whether in the car or on a plane? Or even hunching over your tablet while in bed?
Over time, these awkward positions and slouching overstretch your back ligaments, leading to aches and pains.
Combating the slump
First up, look for ways to adjust your environment for your height. Tips for adjusting your work station can be found here and some good ergonomic driving tips are here.
If you still find yourself slouching for long periods, force yourself to change up your position as often as possible. I find having a bottle of water next to me makes me move more, not only shifting my position to drink water, but getting up to refill the bottle and to go to the bathroom. All kinds of benefits with one simple change!
In addition to changing up your environment and behaviour, frequent exercises focused on strengthening your shoulder and core muscles are a great way to improve posture.
Stretch and Strengthen
Try these five simple exercises to help you beat the slump and stand tall(er)! Use slow and controlled movements and hold your core tight. Start with 30 seconds for each exercise, doing as many reps as possible. Increase this time as you continue to strengthen these muscles.
- Arms out to the side
Stand straight with your feet hip width apart and your ears over your shoulders. Raise both arms to shoulder height with palms facing down and hold, counting slowly to ten. Slowly lower your arms to your sides while slowly counting to ten, then slowly raise them back to shoulder height while slowly counting to ten. Repeat this exercise as many times as you can, making sure you keep your shoulders and ears aligned but away from each other.
- Bent knee twists
Lie on a mat with your knees bent in the air and your arms out to the sides. Tighten your core and bring both knees to one side, hold a moment, then return to the start position. Repeat on the other side. Keep your shoulders flat on the ground.
- Elbow to knee
Start on all fours. Lift your right arm and left leg until they are parallel to the floor. Then slowly bring your lifted elbow and knee together to touch before moving them back out parallel to the floor. Lower and repeat on the opposite side.
The plank is also one of the easiest and most effective core strengthening exercises around. Lie on your stomach with legs stretched out and your palms underneath your shoulders. Tighten your core, raise up onto your toes and straighten your arms, making sure they remain under your shoulders. Hold, keeping your hips lifted, creating a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
If a full plank is too difficult, try a kneeling elbow plank with your elbows bent underneath your shoulders and your knees on the ground. Ensure your hips are held in line with your body, no sagging or raising.
- Cobra pose
Lie face down on the floor with your hands placed either side of your shoulders, palms down. Exhale and lift your head and shoulders using your core muscles – don’t push with your hands. Lengthen your spine and press the tops of your feet and your hips into the floor. Keep your neck relaxed and your shoulders away from your ears. Hold for two or three breaths before slowly lowering back to the start position.
Please note, these are suggested stretches only and are not intended as a substitute for professional treatment. If you have severe back pain, do not start any exercise program without consulting a doctor. Stop doing any activity that causes back pain or makes it worse.
Jane is a wife, entrepreneur and long distance runner in order of priority. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. She owns the websites Nicershoes.com, Runnerclick.com and GearWeAre.com. When she is not busy managing her websites, she travels to popular running destinations across the world together with her husband.