For a 73-year-old, J Wilfred, from Bangalore, walking and bending his right knee had become a difficult task over the last month resulting in him applying more pressure on his left leg, gradually affecting his posture. Following a near fall experience and loss of balance, he consulted a doctor and underwent medical examinations. He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. He is on physiotherapy and posture correction exercises for muscle strengthening.
Wilfred spends an hour performing exercises to improve his mobility. “I didn’t want to undergo any surgery, hence, trying to regain my strength with postural correction. It is gradually improving,” he told Happiest Health.
As Mahesh Koulagi, HOD, Physiotherapy, Hosmat Hospital, Bangalore, observes at one age it’s natural that the body changes and undergoes the aging process (degeneration). Regular exercises will help in slowing down this process. “Degeneration could be of muscles, brain cells, or even bone which is called Osteoarthritis, one of the common degenerative joint diseases in the elderly,” he said.
Importance of posture correction in elderly
Most senior citizens have a hunchback, round shoulder posture and forward thrust of the neck which results in an imbalance in the body structure, says Sherin George, Head Physiotherapy, Sparsh Hospital, Bangalore. “This makes it difficult for them to walk and tend to lose balance, increasing the risk of falls. Doing postural exercises helps to keep every structure including the soft tissues as well as joints in good condition, preventing falls. The first couple of sessions must be done with a trainer’s supervision,” she adds.
“In most cases, the posture is affected due to decreased bone density and degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, resulting in bending of the spine in the elderly,” explains Dr Karthick Dhayalan, consultant orthopedic surgeon, Prashanth Hospital, Chennai. He said that most of them will experience pain but will not attend to it until it gets worse and the pain becomes unbearable.
“The main goal is to maintain mobility and keep themselves active. If someone has been inactive, they shouldn’t start all exercises at one go and need to gradually increase the movements through day-to-day activities,” said Dr Karthick.
Exercises for posture correction
Sit and stand with the right posture
- Sit on the chair with feet flat on the floor, adjust your hip to the center of the body without taking any support from the chair’s backrest, and lift ribs.
- Stand up by bringing your body forward and bring the weight on your legs without taking support or using your hands. Keep hands crossed on the chest to maintain balance. In case of difficulty, try holding the armrest of the chair with your hands while getting up.
- When standing, the foot must align with shoulder width. Let arms rest at the sides. Look straight ahead with your chin up.
- Repeat sitting and standing for at least eight times a day.
Loosening neck muscles
- Neck stretch – Tilt your head to one side and try to touch the earlobes to the shoulder while keeping your shoulder and body straight. Change the sides and repeat 10 times.
- Chin tucks – Pull the chin straight back without tilting the head. Jut your chin out by keeping a straight face. Repeat this 10 times.
- Neck rotation – Look to your left with your body straight, chin up and then slowly bring it forward and look to the right. Repeat this 10 times. Next, rotate your head from one side to another making a half circle and ensure the chin touches the body. Making a full circle might cause dizziness in some and are advised to do it only if they can.
- Shoulder rotation – Stand or sit straight by lifting ribs and keeping hands in a comfortable position. Rotate shoulders forward forming big circles and change to the opposite direction after 10 times.
- Shoulder squeeze – Stand straight, pull shoulders back, squeeze elbows towards each other and loosen them. Repeat this 10 times.
- Arms up and down – Stand straight and lift your arms up, hold straight arms touching your ears and bring them down. Repeat this 10 times. The same can be repeated by holding a stick or a towel to stretch the muscles.
Improving back posture
- Wall tilts – Stand against the wall by adding pressure on the head, shoulder and back, to straighten the body. This helps in correcting the standing posture and spinal extension.
- Stretch your back – Hold a stick or a towel adjusting to shoulder level behind your back and move it up and down. It straightens the back and spinal cord.
- Chest expansion – Sit straight with lifting ribs and shoulders. Inhale & exhale. Following this breathing exercise will help in both posture and lung capacity.
- Knee squeeze – Sit straight and place a pillow or a towel between your keens. Squeeze your knees together and release it after 2-3 seconds. Repeat this 10 times.
- Seated march – Sit straight and lift your one leg up with the bent position, hold it for a moment and down on the ground. Perform the same on the other leg. Continue the march 10 – 15 times.
- Leg lifts – Sit on a chair and lift your leg straight up and down. One leg after another for 10 times.
- Leg stretch – Hold a grill or a sturdy chair and stand straight. Lift your leg backward in a bending position, hold your leg with one hand to stretch while taking support from the chair with the other hand and place your leg down. Repeat the same with the other leg.
One must always listen to their body, says George. “Do not compare yourself with others of your age and overdo any exercises. Ensure there is consistency and you follow the posture correction exercises every day to correct and improve your posture. Take precautionary safety measures and stay hydrated before starting the exercises to prevent falls,” she advises.
Posture imbalance is a common issue that most senior citizens face that affects their mobility. Spending 15 to 20 minutes on these simple posture correction exercises will help the elderly in maintaining a good posture and prevent falls and injuries. Those who are inactive for a long must do first few sessions under a trainer’s supervision.