Research has unveiled some important associations between bad posture and health issues. Age related degenerative changes in the spine can contribute to a stooped posture, and a tendency to bend or flex forward is also the most common change in posture seen with Parkinson’s disease.
With normal posture our weight is well centered over the middle of our feet making it much easier to balance. When our spine is bent forward, the head also comes forward and our center of mass shifts ahead of the feet. This leads to difficulty in taking big steps and requires more energy to walk. Falls are more likely to happen due to reduced foot clearance or shuffling that occurs while walking with knees bent. Also, forward slouching limits arm swing, can cause shoulder and neck problems, and reduces lung volume which can lead to poor breath support affecting both speech and swallowing.
One muscle, often overlooked in scientific studies related to posture, is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the main muscle of breathing (inspiration), but it also an important contributor to core muscle strength and balance, and because of its insertions, the diaphragm can change the position of the rib cage and lumbar spine. The diaphragm is responsible not only for a large part of the breathing movement, but also for visceral movement. Poor diaphragmatic movement can therefore cause both breathing and visceral problems. (Visceral pain is pain that results from the activation of nociceptors(sensory receptors) of the thoracic, pelvic, or abdominal organs, and can be associated with autonomic nervous system disorders).
Good posture starts with a strong core, which includes the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. Strong core muscles are resistant to pain and injuries, help to hold your body upright, and help improve balance. Specific exercises targeting the diaphragm may help strengthen the core and improve breathing patterns, including the timing and coordination required for efficient breathing and swallowing. *A few pilot studies indicate that for the elderly, who are more at risk for falling, instruction in diaphragmatic breathing would reduce the occurrence of injury and/or fatality. Diaphragmatic breathing can be easily taught, and strengthening of this muscle can include the use of respiratory muscle training (RMT). RMT is typically done by breathing through a handheld device like the Breather, with varying levels of resistance similar to using free weights for skeletal muscle strengthening. In addition to improvement in posture, strengthening of the diaphragm can promote a deeper inspiration, helping to expand the distal airways and improve expiratory muscle function necessary for adequate speech production and cough.
Dr. Andrew Weil, pioneer of the holistic health movement and author says: “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.”
*Czapszys,Ria, et al Effect of Breath Patterns on Balance: Breathe Diaphragmatically to Prevent Falling (2000)
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My MissionTo enlist individuals in their treatment, and help them express their personality & spirit through voice. To educate and empower. Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP * FiTOUR® Group Exercise Instructor * Voice Aerobics® A Whole Body Approach to Voice Practice
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