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Straight and steady does it

What are the secrets to staying healthy as we age? You probably know the usual recommendations, such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.

But it's also important to focus on three other things: good posture, balance and flexibility. They can help ward off some of the health problems—such as broken bones, digestive problems, and neck and back pain—that can derail our health and enjoyment of life at any stage, but particularly as we get older.

Follow these suggestions for retaining your stability and range of motion so you can enjoy better mobility and a healthier life.

For better posture: Maintaining or improving your posture aids with your balance and flexibility. By holding your body correctly, your spine will align at your neck and back to provide support and steadiness.

The key to proper posture is being mindful at all times. If you find yourself slouching when working at your desk, watching TV, walking around or standing in the grocery line, think about what your mother may have told you:

  • Stand and sit up straight.
  • Put your shoulders back.
  • Pull your stomach in.

When standing, place your weight on the balls of your feet. When sitting, uncross your legs, and keep your feet flat on the floor or a footrest. Ensure that your chairs have enough padding for back, thigh and hip support.

For better balance: To improve your stability throughout your day:

  • Stand on one foot for 10 seconds.
  • Walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for 20 steps.
  • Stand up from a seated position without grabbing your chair.

If you feel unsteady, have a wall, sturdy chair or a person nearby. As you feel more stable, you might not need support.

For more flexibility: Focus on stretching your back, inner thigh, back of leg and ankle. The National Institute on Aging has a series of stretching exercise videos for older adults on YouTube that show you how to safely stretch those areas.

Keep moving!

Movement can also help with improving posture, balance and flexibility. Two great overall movement practices are yoga and tai chi.

Also remember to take frequent breaks when sitting or standing, and gently stretch.

Additional sources: American Heart Association; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Reviewed 8/24/2022

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