Blog #79 Move Well to Age Well – An Exercise Ball Can Help
Because of life habits of slouching, leaning over laptops and cell phones, reading in bed, sitting in soft, poorly supportive chairs, hyperextending our knees, and more, many people have asymmetrical, uneven posture. Most of the time, people are not even aware of their flawed posture, even if it involves holding one shoulder several inches higher than the other, holding the head and neck significantly forward of the torso, or bending slightly forward at the waist when standing and walking. In each of these cases, the weight of part of the body is not being managed optimally and therefore, is exerting more strain on other parts of the body, eventually likely resulting in problems like rapid and/or uneven joint wear and tear, early muscle fatigue, and a greater likelihood of falls.
In addition to standing on one leg (The Stork) see Blog #75, using an exercise ball is an effective, inexpensive, and low-tech tool to help us learn where their body really is as opposed to where we think it is. Balance is essential when using an exercise ball. Without balance, we fall down. When we start to fall off the ball, this gives us feedback about our faulty balance, which we must correct in order to remain on the ball and off the floor.
Anti-burst or slow deflate balls are best. You should be able to sit on the exercise ball so that the thighs are level while sitting on the front half of the ball. Even just sitting on the ball for several minutes can teach a lot about posture and balance. Strong posture involves sitting with feet flat on the floor, knees over ankles, shoulders over hips, and head over shoulders. Retract the shoulders slightly to lift the chest, then pull the shoulders back and down. To keep shoulders over hips, avoid leaning forward or back. The neck should also be retracted slightly, in order to pull the head over the shoulders. Ideally, hands should be palms up and out to the sides, not touching the ball or body, unless you need to change this initially for balance. Breathing should be deep, diaphragmatic, and even. When core muscles are engaged in deep abdominal breathing, the body is more balanced and stable than it would be with more shallow chest breathing.
A proper ball sit precedes moving on the ball with good balance. It is best to first simply move forward and back on the ball, then side-to-side, all the while maintaining strong posture and keeping the knees evenly spaced. If necessary, hold a pillow or cushion between your knees to make sure they stay locked and stable. When you move, be sure to activate your core, including the gluteals, pelvic and the abdominal muscles.
This blog’s offer: currently, I am teaching a seven-part strong posture course free of charge to my patients. Starting next year, there will be a charge for this course. Also, feel free to contact me with questions about ball sit and beginning motion.