How Does Your Posture Affect Your Heart Health?

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By Dr. Sender Deutsch
Published on February 12, 2016

postureFebruary is Heart Month, and with Valentine’s Day coming up, its definitely a time for love!  Love for yourself, and love for other people.  What better time to remind ourselves about the importance of our health and well-being and focus on having good postural health. The effects of good posture are instrumental in how we look and feel, especially for this special holiday!

Our bodies were created with a spinal alignment that has three main curvatures: the neck, thoracic spine/ mid-back and the lower back.  Maintaining these three natural curves allows for good postural alignment and allows us to move and function at our optimal level.  As I have mentioned many times before, we are constantly being forced into round, hunched-over positions which create what rehabilitation specialists call the dreaded “upper cross syndrome.”

This forward or upper crossed postural syndrome makes us start to resemble our animal ancestors, where we start to look like we are walking on all fours, instead of standing up straight.  Bipedalism, which is a straight posture, is with our head-up, eyes looking straight, shoulders down and back and our chest out.  This is what I like to call “standing proud.”   As humans, we must feel confident, and good posture tells our brain and body that we are confident, allowing us to breathe properly through our belly and diaphragm.

shutterstock_141479836Poor posture contributes to and can cause high blood pressure and chest pain.  The rounded forward position will cause congestion of the chest muscles.  This causes the nerves that surround and exit our neck, innervate the muscles to our chest arms and control our breathing to become entrapped.  The nerves within our neck muscles provide a lot of input that control heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.  If these areas become very tight, it may affect these signals and disrupt the normal homeostasis of our body.  We also know that poor posture is linked to headaches, neck and back pain.  The neck is a highly sensitive area that provides a lot of feedback to our brain.  Make this Valentines Day special and focus on the exercises below to help reset your body’s natural alignment and improve your heart health.  This will help you relax and enjoy all the love that Valentine’s Day brings.  Your partner will appreciate your new look and feel!

Postural Exercises

  1. Walking lunges with arms overhead reaching palms towards the sky – this opens up you hip flexors, which attach to your low back and become tight and tense from sitting all day long. Aim for 10 to 30 per leg.
  2. Brugger stretch- standing straight up take your palms and reach up towards to the ceiling while inhaling deeply.  Reach as high as you can and relax. Hold at the top for a few seconds and repeat 5 to 10 times.
  3. Chest opener- standing up take your hands and place them lightly by your ears.  Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back as hold for 10 seconds and repeat 3x’s to rest posture.
  4. Grab a foam roller and start rolling it along your spine horizontally.  A tight thoracic spine can cause neck, shoulder and low back pain.  Roll for a few minutes to increase spinal mobility and help reduce spinal tension.
  5. Lying on your back with knees bent bridge your hips up towards the sky squeezing your glutes together.  As you do this exercise, focus on breathing in through your belly and out through your mouth.  This will help stretch the hip flexors while activating and strengthening your glutes and low back muscles.  Do 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions.
  6. Lying on your stomach, do a sloppy push-up keeping your thigh muscles on the floor.  This is a yoga type posture called the cobra.  This helps to lengthen the anterior chain muscles which are the muscles that run down the front of your body. Hold each pose for approximately 1 minute and repeat a few times.
  7. Lie on your back over a stability ball to help combat the rounded thoracic spine posture and assist in stretching the anterior neck muscles which some start to use as the accessory breathing muscles. Hold for 90 seconds and repeat a few times.
  8. While standing, focus on squeezing your glutes together. Grab a band and squeeze your shoulders back in a rowing position or “T” position.  Hold for 10 seconds and repeat ten times.
  9. Lying on your bed, let your arm hang off one side of the bed to open up your chest.  Hold for 90 seconds to lengthen the chest muscles.  Switch sides of the bed to do other side.
  10. Lying on your back, place your arms out to the side to open up the chest.  Inhale through your nose focusing on breathing through your belly.  Try doing this before bed to help calm down your nervous system. Practice for a few minutes or better yet fall asleep while doing.