Travel posture prescription plus healthy back bonus moves
Traveling can refresh and rejuvenate you mind, body and spirit, but getting there can be a grind. Sitting in planes, trains and automobiles for extended periods can throw your body out of balance. The same thing can happen from hunching over a desk or computer all day. That’s because repetitive sitting postures abuse one muscle group and ignore its opposing muscle group, leading to imbalances that can leave you stiff and achy.
Why Traveling Can Make You Sore
Too much sitting tightens the hip flexor muscles and weakens the opposite muscles, the glutes. Likewise, hunching over can lead to tightness in the chest muscles, and weakness in the opposite muscles of the upper back. Over time, scar-tissue adhesions develop on chronically tight muscles, says Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, California. These muscle imbalances can eventually lead to pain, stiffness and even joint and disk injuries.
If you’re experiencing a muscle imbalance, you probably feel neck pain, fatigue between your shoulder blades, a tight ache in your lower back and possibly sciatic nerve pain (or tingling from your lower back through your leg). We’ve all heard about the health benefits of getting 30 minutes of exercise a day. Now research shows that too much sitting can actually shorten our lifespan, says Comana.
Not what we have in mind when we’re planning a getaway-from-it-all trip. If this happens to you, try these tips for restoring your body back to balance.
Your Posture Prescription
1. Get out of the seat. Whenever you can, look for opportunities to get out of your habitual position. On a road trip, plan to make frequent stops, and on a long flight, look for opportunities to get up and walk around, however briefly.
2, Pay attention to your posture. When you get off the plane or out of the car, check to see if you’re slouching. “As you’re standing and moving around, learn to be consciously aware of what parts of posture has sort of fallen out of alignment,” says Comana. Here’s a checklist:
- Find the neutral position in your ankles.
- Tighten your glutes.
- Contract your abs to pull your hips back underneath you.
- Pull your shoulder blades and head back.
3. Stretch it out. No matter where you’re going, make time to stretch during the day. And if your schedule permits, look for a Pilates or yoga class. “Yoga focuses on posture, which will help you become more aware of your body in space,” says Kelly Wilson, a personal trainer at On Track Health & Fitness in Vermont. “Once this awareness begins to grow, you will find yourself trying to sit up straighter at your desk, while you’re driving or when you’re standing in line at the grocery store.”
4. Work opposite muscles. If you’re taking advantage of your hotel gym, make sure to work opposing muscle groups, says Wilson. Do squats followed by lunges, for example. Or do push-ups followed by a rowing exercise or a cable pull. At home, she suggests following push-ups with this dumbbell exercise:
- With your back straight, either sit on a bench or stand and lean forward.
- Leading with your elbows, pull both of the weights up toward your rib cage.
- Keep your abs tight throughout the exercise.
5. Get a massage. If you schedule a massage at the beginning of your trip, you’ll be off to a great start. Your hotel may have a massage therapist on staff, or you can ask for a local recommendation. Once home, you may benefit from a series of deep massages or Rolfing to help break up scar-tissue adhesions over your muscles. Each of these strategies supports the others to help you get your body back in balance.
Healthy Back Bonus Moves
Wondering how to make your backside look better in jeans? Build up your back muscles. Plenty of butt exercises work to tone your tush, but back exercises improve your posture, and when you stand up straighter your butt looks better, too.
“A strong back makes everything look better,” says Terri Walsh, a celebrity personal trainer in New York City. “You look better in your clothes, you carry yourself taller and straighter, and you avoid getting that hunched-over slouchy look.
“ Along with improving your posture, a strong, toned and flexible back helps protect against low-back pain. “About 80 percent of low-back pain is directly related to low-back strength,” says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., a researcher currently working on a low-back strength study at Quincy College in Massachusetts. “Weak low-back muscles, which most people have, are a precursor to eventual chronic low-back pain, fatigue or discomfort,” he adds.
Most fitness centers have machines for working your back muscles, but you can also perform many back exercises with just your body weight or with the help of exercise bands, tubes or balls. “The best back exercises produce an extension of your trunk in a reasonable range of motion,” says Westcott.
Here are four effective back-strengthening exercises you can do anywhere:
1. Seated rotation twist
- - Sit cross-legged pressing your legs into the floor, or sit on a bench.
- - Hold a piece of tubing across your back, with hands stretched out in front.
- – Rotate your torso to the right, pulling your stomach in and keeping your hips stable.
- - Hold this position for a count of two.
- - Return to the center position.
- – Repeat on the left side.
- – Perform two sets of 10 repetitions on each side.
Savvy Tip: “You actually work the back muscles on the reverse part of the repetition,” says Walsh.
2. Quadruped Extension Rotation
- Get down on the floor on your hands and knees.
- Place your left hand on the back of your head, elbow out to the side.
- Reach your left elbow down toward your right arm, keeping your right elbow locked.
- Return to the starting position and stretch slightly beyond, turning your head to the left.
- Perform 12 rotations.
- Reverse direction, placing your right hand on your head and reaching toward your left arm.
Savvy Tip: The movement should come from your mid-back, not your hips.
3. Basic Trunk Extension
- Lie face-down on an exercise ball, hands crossed at your chest, weight on your toes.
- Lift your upper body away from the ball. - Return to the starting position.
- Perform two sets of 10.
Savvy Tip: “To make the exercise more challenging, add resistance by holding a medicine ball against your chest,” says Westcott.
4. Locust Pose (yoga)
- Lie on your belly on a mat, arms at your sides, palms up. Rest your forehead on the floor.
- Exhale as you lift your head, chest, arms and legs.
- Look straight ahead or slightly upward.
- Hold for 30 seconds. - Exhale and release.
- Repeat five times.
Savvy Tip: Keep your neck extended rather than compressed.