Every day as we sit, stand or go about our daily activities, we support about 10-15 pounds of head on our spine. Though we may give it no thought, gravity can pull our heads forward causing us to slouch and slump. Over time, the natural curve of the upper back, called kyphosis, gradually increases potentially to the detriment of our overall health.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Wendy Katzman, PT, DPTSc, OCS, founder of Stand Tall™, an exercise program designed to alleviate excessive kyphosis.
“There are things we can do throughout our lives to counter balance gravity and to reduce or slow down the natural increase in the upper back curvature that occurs with aging,” she said. “It starts with being aware of what is happening and then actively taking measures against it.”
To an extent, kyphosis is a natural part of aging. People’s spines become more curved generally starting in their 40s. For many, however, the curving becomes extreme.
“Often people are worried about how this looks, but the bigger concern for me is the effect that it can have on your health,” Wendy said. “It decreases physical mobility, puts you at greater risk of injuries and hinders breathing because when you’re slumped over, you’ve reduced the room for air to expand your lungs.”
In her physical therapy practice, Wendy developed exercises to help her patients strengthen their core and back muscles in order to improve their posture. She even earned a doctorate degree so she could study the issue and clinically demonstrate whether exercise could make a difference. The result was the Stand TallTM program, which combines targeted strength training, postural alignment and flexibility exercises to strengthen core and back muscles and improve posture and bone health. The program is available at various places including Ella Health’s Physical Therapy centers.
Wendy’s first study confirmed what she had seen in her practice – women who follow a dedicated exercise program reduced the degree of kyphosis. They stood straighter, felt stronger and had greater physical mobility. She is now working on larger follow up studies.
While Wendy’s programs target adults, addressing the issue should start much younger, she said. The problems often start as girls become teenagers. They become self-conscious and start to slouch, creating a lasting habit.
“We need to help young women feel better about their bodies so they will feel proud and stand upright,” Wendy said. “Training people to stand tall can help them feel stronger and more powerful and that is important at any age.”
For adults of any age it’s important to be aware of maintaining good posture. While sitting, it’s important to be centered over your pelvis, keep your head on top of your spine and both feet on the floor. While standing and walking, keep your head, shoulders and back aligned.
“And keep in mind that it’s never too late,” Wendy said. “At any age there are things you can do to make yourself stronger and improve your health.”
Learn more about bone health, safe exercises, posture and fractures with Wendy Katzman and American Bone Health during a presentation at Ella Health, San Francisco, on April 14th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. All registered participants will receive a pass for one complimentary Stand TallTMintegrated posture and strength training class at Ella Health.