10 Ways to Have Great Posture as You Age

Follow these 10 tips to help you improve your posture at any age.

Want to get fit with the help of a celebrity trainer? Now you can. We teamed up with Harley Pasternak—who trains celebs like Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga—to learn the best exercises to strengthen and tone the back of your body.

01 of 10

Open Up

Now that many of us spend our days hunched in front of a computer, "it's very important for us to be able to stretch and open up and improve our range of motion," said Jonathan F. Bean, MD, MS, MPH, an assistant professor in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

To stay limber, try to get up for a couple minutes every half hour and stretch, walk, or stand.

02 of 10

Easy Exercises

Try this exercise: Every morning and night, lie down on the floor and make slow "snow angels" with your arms for two or three minutes.

For an extra challenge, roll up a towel and put it on the floor underneath your spine. Many gyms have half foam rollers—a tube cut in half lengthwise—that you can use for even more of a stretch.

But do these stretches slowly and stop if you feel anything worse than mild discomfort or pain, said Dr. Bean. "You want to work up to that, you want to make sure that you first get the flexibility."

03 of 10

Sit Straight

When you do have to work at a desk, "sitting up with good, tall posture and your shoulders dropped is a good habit to get into," said Rebecca Seguin, PhD, a public health scientist and nutritionist at Texas A&M University.

This can take some getting used to. Movement practices that focus on body awareness, such as Pilates and yoga, can help you stay sitting straight, said Seguin. Make sure your workstation is set up to promote proper posture.

04 of 10

Strengthen Your Core

Pilates and yoga are great ways to build up the strength of your core—the muscles of your abdomen and pelvic area.

These muscles form the foundation of good posture, and a strong core can have many other benefits, from improving your athletic performance to preventing urinary incontinence.

A stronger core can even make sex more fun.

05 of 10

Say Om

In addition to helping to increase body awareness and core strength, yoga is an excellent way to build and maintain flexibility and strengthen muscles throughout your body, said Dr. Bean.

Start practicing yoga gradually and listen to how your body responds, added Dr. Bean. Make sure your yoga teacher is sensitive to your needs and abilities, and available for feedback. Hatha or restorative yoga are good places to start if you're a beginner.

06 of 10

Support Your Spine

After menopause, women may have more weakening in the muscles around the spine than aging men do, said Dr. Bean.

Exercises targeting the back extensors, neck flexors, pelvic muscles, and side muscles are crucial. Trainers at gyms can help; there are even special machines that target these muscles.

Endurance in the spine and trunk muscle groups is important too, according to Dr. Bean; "that's what allows us to stand up for long periods of time without our back hurting us."

07 of 10

Lift Weights

The vertebral compression fractures that subtract from our height—and can lead to the "dowager's hump" in the upper back that's a hallmark of old age—are due to the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease and is characterized by weakening of bone tissue, bone structure, and strength. It may lead to increased risk of fractures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Women—and men—can prevent these changes with weight-bearing exercises, like walking, stair climbing, and weight lifting.

"People who walk regularly through their whole lives tend to have better bone density than sedentary people," said Seguin.

08 of 10

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for bone health, and may help us maintain our muscles too.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it's best to get vitamin D (and calcium) from foods to help maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. Most of us get enough vitamin D from food and sunlight without taking supplements. Taking vitamin D and calcium supplements slightly increases bone strength in older adults, but it's not clear whether supplements reduce the risk of falling or breaking a bone.

The recommended dietary intake for vitamin D is 600 IU a day for women up to age 70 and 800 IU for women older than 70.

09 of 10

Eat Healthy

We all know the bone benefits of calcium. It is recommended that women 19 to 50 years old get 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. For women over 50, it's 1,200 milligrams.

Calcium is found in many foods. According to the NIH, you can get recommended amounts of calcium by eating a variety of foods, including milk, yogurt, cheese, canned sardines, salmon, vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage), and most grains.

Just like with vitamin D, it may be best to get calcium from food rather than supplements.

Talk with your healthcare provider about whether or not you need to take supplemental calcium.

10 of 10

Consider Medication

posture-doctor
Corbis

Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you whether you need a bone mineral density scan to detect osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Activities like progressive resistance training can halt or reverse bone loss in some cases, said Seguin, medications may also help. These include bisphosphonates (a class of medicines that can be effective at preventing or slowing the loss of bone mass, according to the US Food and Drug Administration or FDA). Brand names include Boniva, Reclast, and Fosamax. Although safe, such drugs can increase the risk of rare fractures or other problems, according to an FDA safety announcement.

Hormone-based medications that can help build bone density include Denosumab, calcitonin, and parathyroid hormone, according to the Office on Women's Health.

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