Exercise – Upper body, shoulders and back

Poor posture can cause many problems but can be improved. With bad posture breathing becomes more difficult and the amount of air inhaled is less. So for this reason it’s important to maintain strength and mobility of the chest and back as we get older.  For seated exercising always chose a firm upright chair (preferably without arms) shuffle your bottom to the front of seat and sit upright with feet flat on the floor.  Be aware of your posture and try to maintain a good position throughout the exercises.

To release tension in shoulders and upper back       

        Circles

Stand or sit. Bend your elbows and raise your arms to the side and simply place fingertips on your shoulders.   Keep your fingertips in position, now bring your elbows forward and together in front of your chest.   Draw a circle with your elbows lift them both up and take on out to either side and, then on back pulling your shoulder blades together, as far as comfortable.   Continue drawing imaginary circles with your elbows on down to sides and back to start position.   Repeat 5 times clockwise and 5 times anti-clockwise.

 To improve the mobility of your shoulders and upper back

       side reach & stretch

Sit or stand with feet apart.   With your right hand reach up and over your head as if climbing a rope (relax left knee if standing).   Hold position for 10 seconds. Bring arm down and reach up and over with left hand (relaxing right knee)

And hold for 10 secs.

To improve the mobility of your shoulders and upper back

       side twist

Stand or sit upright as before but concentrate on posture by pulling in your tummy.   Bend your elbows out and bring your hands up and touch your fingertips together in front of your chest.   Keeping your elbows up  twist from your waist only and take your upper body, arms and head to look around your right side (as far as comfortable.   Come back to centre and continue to twist arms and upper body to look around left side.   Keep  elbows up, fingertips touching and repeat this twisting movement 5 times to each side, working the back and shoulders.

To stretch out your chest

       chest stretch

Sit or stand.   Take both arms behind you and place your hands on your bottom.   Pull your shoulders and elbows back as far as possible.   Lift up your rib cage and feel the stretch across your chest.

Hold for 10 seconds.

To expand the chest

       lift and stretch

Sit or stand. Clasp both hands behind your back.  Lift and stretch both arms up behind you. Hold and stretch out for 10 secs.

To improve mobility of shoulders and upper back

       arm flings

Stand or sit upright in your chair face the front with elbows up and fingertips together, remember your posture.  Keep elbows up at shoulder level then open your arms taking your hands out to the sides pulling shoulder blades together as far as possible.  Keep your elbows slightly bent – don’t straighten or hyper-extend your arms, and stretch out your chest.   (Don’t poke your head forward)   Bring fingertips back together in front of chest and repeat movement 5 times breathing deeply throughout.

To stretch out your upper back and relieve back ache

       back stretch

Stand or sit back comfortably in your chair with your feet flat on the floor.   Place both hands around your right knee and lift your right foot up off the floor.   Bend forward from your waist, bring forehead down onto your knee or as far as comfortable.   Keep this position and lift your elbows up out to the sides and round out your back.   Feel the stretch and hold for 10 seconds.   Return your right foot to the floor.   Repeat movement lifting your left foot and knee up and holding the stretch for a further 10 seconds.

The following back strengthening exercises are not suitable if you suffer from osteoporosis.

To strengthen your spine

       the flyer

Lie on your tummy.   Take your arms out to your sides.   Bend your elbows and place hands on floor under shoulders palms down.  Keep your chin on floor and  breathe in.   Keep your head, chest and arms in a straight line as you breathe out and lift them up together off the floor…. like a flying bird.   Keep looking down (don’t throw your head back).  Breathe out and relax down.   Repeat 5 times.  It’s a small but strong movement so build up slowly.

To stretch out your spine

 

       The cat

Kneel down and place your hands on the floor under your shoulders with fingers facing forward.   Breathe in, pull up your tummy muscles and arch up your back (like a cat does on waking) at the same time drop your head down to look through your knees.   Hold for 10 seconds.

Relax back down, stick out your bottom and look up.   Hold that position for 10 seconds, then relax back down.

Such a good feeling, it helps ease out that stiff back!

To relax your spine

       Rest and relax

Lie on your back and support your head with a small cushion.  Place another small cushion behind your knees and thighs. Place your hands comfortably on your tummy.  Breathe in deeply, taking the breath into your abdomen, feel the rise and fall of your tum with your fingers. Close your eyes, continue breathing deeply and relax for a few minutes.  Take care getting up off the floor. Turn onto your side, then push yourself up onto one knee and carefully stand up.

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