My Pa says old folks are prone to “prairie dog pose.” (He’s over 65 so he’s allowed to say this, and he should know, he fights it every day!) What he means is that once we reach a certain age, we tend to stand with our upper backs rounded, tummies relaxed, and the palms of our hands facing backwards, letting our shoulders roll forwards. The first time I saw a prairie dog after he said this, I had to laugh… the visual is true!
But on a serious note, posture like this is a result of a gradual loss of strength and flexibility in the upper and lower back, shoulders, and hamstrings. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to look up, harder to reach up, and harder to get up.
People in their 40’s & 50’s might not think about it, but how about later in life? How do we keep our independence if we can’t reach up to wash our own hair, or get up out of our chair? It makes me think…
So here are some very quick and simple tests to take RIGHT NOW to make sure you have basic strength and flexibility in your body. If you don’t, not to worry, you can improve easily by using these tests as regular exercises.
1. STAND AGAINST THE WALL. LIFT YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD, & PLACE THE BACKS OF YOUR HANDS AGAINST THE WALL ABOVE YOU.
This is a measure of shoulder flexibility and strength as well as upper back strength. If you can’t do this, practice this position, getting your arms closer and closer to the wall each time. Make sure you keep your arms straight. Hold your maximum stretch for 10 seconds, then relax. Do 3-5 times.
2. STAND AGAINST THE WALL. SPREAD YOUR ARMS OUT TO THE SIDES, AND PLACE THE BACKS OF YOUR HANDS AGAINST THE WALL BESIDE YOU.
This is a measure of shoulder flexibility and strength, as well as middle back strength. If you can’t do this, practice this position, getting closer and closer to the wall each time. Hold your maximum stretch for 10 seconds, then relax. Do 3-5 times.
3. SIT AND TOUCH YOUR TOES
This is a measure of hamstring and low back flexibility… and of course, it’s easier if you have short legs, ha! To practice, just stretch toward your toes, and hold your maximum stretch for 10 seconds. Relax, and repeat 3-5 times.
4. STRADDLE SIT
This is a measure of hamstring flexibility and low back strength. It’s harder than it seems to keep your back straight! To practice, start in a medium-wide straddle (not too wide), and sit up as straight as you can for 10 seconds. Relax, then repeat 3-5 times.
5. SUPERMAN POSE
This is a measure of overall back strength, and shoulder flexibility. Keeping your feet on the ground, raise your upper body up as far as possible and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
If you find you can do all of these exercises already, super! Test yourself every so often. I do, just because that comment about “prairie dog pose” rings in my ears every so often…
Stay fit, folks!