Healthy Living: You Are As Young As Your Spine

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How Young Is Your Spine?

A few weeks ago during morning fitness classes as we were getting ready for yoga, someone said they were told we are only as young as our spines. Right now, I cannot remember who mentioned this in class but it’s credited to Joseph Pilates.

So what exactly does it mean to be only as young as your spine?  It means that the flexibility and vitality of your spine determines how you feel.  Really think about this.  If you wake up in the morning and it is difficult to get moving because of pain in your back, you probably do not feel very young. When this happens to me in the morning, I tell my husband I feel 150 years old!

This does not just happen to people over 50 either.  With the changes in our technology and society, people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s are experiencing pain that may make it difficult to sit, work and stand.  Back pain is a common complaint for which doctor’s appointments are made.

There could be several reasons for back pain but one reason that causes back pain is poor posture. You have several muscles that are in charge of holding your body upright. Unfortunately, if you do not exercise these muscles to keep them strong, they can become weak and not able to do their job.

When these muscles become weak, it leads to soreness and tightness because your spine is not being properly supported. Add in that as no two people are alike – no two bodies are alike.  You may watch one 75-year-old shuffle their feet as they try to walk while you watch another 75-year-old dancing. What is the difference between the two?

Generally the active adult has a more flexible spine. They “feel” younger because their spine is able to support them as they make their way through their days.  We have all seen that commercial on TV that has the tagline “A body in motion, stays in motion.” That statement is never more true than when it comes to the health of our spines.

Is there a way to improve the flexibility of our spines? There is but it is important to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. One thing you can immediately do is to improve your posture.

You have probably heard the term engage your core and pull your shoulders down and back but what exactly does that mean?  Most of us slouch especially if you sit the majority of your day. When you pull your shoulders back and down, your chest is proud and you instantly stand taller.

The best way to explain engaging your core is to visualize your belly button lying on your spine. Or think about trying to zip up jeans that are too tight.  You pull your belly in toward your back. That’s engaging your core. Remind yourself during the day to stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and down and engage your core and soon it will become habit.

Can exercise help you improve spinal flexibility? Yes – so fight back!  The top two forms of exercise to help spine flexibility are yoga and Pilates. Personally I love both and incorporate those into my fitness classes.  Unless you include flexibility and stretching into your workout routine, you will quickly find your flexibility decreasing as you age.  It’s time to get up and get moving! Have a wonderful week.

To your health,

Denise