“Your spine is the trunk of your “tree”, says Jason T Smith, renowned Physiotherapist, founder of the Back In Motion Health Group and Author of ‘Get Yourself Back In Motion’. Looking after this pillar of support for your body and control column for every cell, tissue and organ in the body is therefore imperative for everything to function favourably for the long-term. Here’s how to keep and maintain a healthy spine.
People now spend around 80% of their day sedentary, explains Jason, which he defines as a lifestyle with little to no activity – including long periods of sitting, lying in bed, reading, playing gaming consoles, or using the computer for extended periods of time.
“Sitting for long periods can compromise your posture which is linked to the health of your spine,” he says. If you are injured or in pain, the natural response is to adopt a posture that provides relief to this injured area. However this may involve abnormal posture or movement in your body, which actually forces your body to work harder in order to hold this position. “Likewise when we fall into a cycle of bad postural behaviour, we might actually find our muscles having to work harder to accommodate for this change,” notes Jason.
“The human body is designed to move, not to be seated most of the time,” adds Cat Rose, co-founder of Physicore, a boutique studio concept offering body conditioning with a strong focus on building core strength – based on the Lagree method favored by Sofia Vergara, Nicole Kidman and Vanessa Hudgens. She says that instilling good habits now is a must to ensure more movement and greater spine health later. “Discourage prolonged periods of sitting down and limit time spent watching TV playing computer games and other sedentary activities,” she urges
Jason believes that the correct core posture is one of the most important pillars of health and wellbeing. “The constant shutting down and overextending of muscles in your lower back put you at risk of developing strained discs, spinal nerve impingement, and sciatica – nerve pain in the buttock and leg,” he says.
“Over time these conditions may cause a great amount of pain and discomfort. Incorrect spinal posture may also be worsened by age related conditions such as osteoarthritis.”
The spine is at the very core of our being. By standing tall, you are already being held in a naturally healthy position, notes Jason. “When your bones are aligned, it leads to a strong and healthy core and helps to prevent a number of health issues that may come about as a result of poor posture. When you have good posture, you will automatically find yourself standing tall. Not only does this do wonders for self-confidence, it also makes you look assertive, smarter, and more appealing,” he says. Additionally, by working towards improving your posture, you may also find yourself more comfortable when it comes to sitting and standing, so that even sedentary activities are not as debilitating.
There’s nothing wrong with exercising for sleeker thighs and toner tummies, but definitely don’t underestimate the effect that a healthy spine can have on the rest of your body, says Jason – especially if you have suffered injury already. “In regards to back injuries, always consult your physiotherapist before easing back into training. Throwing yourself into a regime too soon after injury can lead to longer recovery times or even permanent damage,” he warns.
Cat notes that exercise can be categorized into three basic types: aerobic, strength and flexibility, and that a balanced training regime should include all three types, “and of course any type of exercise must be performed with correct form in order to be safe and engage the correct muscles for maximum benefit,” she urges.
“Poor posture tends to involve rounding the back and shoulders which in turn makes us look shorter which negates the long, lean look we all strive for!” she points out. “An exercise program should therefore engage and strengthen your core which will train you to keep your core switched on day to day.”