With most of the world either working from home or just staying home right now our lives may have become a lot more sedentary than normal. This alongside sitting at “new” home desk space, more relaxing time on the sofa etc can mean for more aches and pains as your body adopts its new posture.
Posture can be hard to maintain at the best of times! Every week at my physio job I treat people with various neck or low back pains caused from the repetitive, static nature of office working, or the constant twisting of working in childcare, dentistry, retail and so on. These problems often occur because the duration of your posture is too long for your body to cope with. After a short while, usually around 30 minutes or so your body begins to fatigue and will “slouch” in to its more comfortable position that requires less energy to maintain. Or perhaps it is because the position you sit in is not utilising your body best and over time those muscles that are overworking start to fail. This causes increased strain to other muscles or joints that are not designed for this additional load, so they then start to ache, and it continues on.
The good news it that pilates is EXCELLENT for fixing your posture! Pilates is a whole-body strengthening and mobilising exercise form that works to mobilise those tight, stiff areas, and strengthen those weaker areas.
Pilates first and foremost is working form your core. A strong core provides a strong trunk, and therefore a strong upright position. This can ensure your pelvis sits in the neutral position and does not cause stress to your lower back by tilting either backwards or forwards. This then provides support for your upper body because whatever is going on at your lower back will consequentially affect your upper spine/neck/shoulders too.
Spinal core exercises such as shoulder bridge and roll ups work to strengthen your core THROUGH movement. This means that the muscles are strengthened throughout the spine and not in just one specific area, and that they are strengthened in various positions. This is much more functional for daily life as we are constantly moving and not requiring strength in just one isolated position.
Many day-to-day activities involve bending or flexing forwards. There is very little that we do that involves extending backwards, so naturally we end up tight at the front in our chests and hips, and weaker through our upper back/shoulder blade region and gluteals/buttocks. Pilates exercises incorporate extensive strengthening for the whole back of the body (also called the posterior chain). Specific exercises work the shoulder blades (scapular muscles), which can provide a stronger framework for the head and neck to rest upon.
Strengthening the gluteal muscles provides a strong framework to support the body in its upright form. Sitting for prolonged periods naturally weakens our gluteal muscles as they are inactive throughout this period, and muscles need regular contraction to maintain strength. Our gluteal muscles are the primary muscle group involved in initiating the hip movements in walking, stair climbing, running etc therefore weakness here can quickly lead to hip pain and low back symptoms with simple activities such as these.
Pilates also involves dynamic stretching and mobility exercises to ensure the body moves efficiently and effectively. Tight muscles will often display weakness as a result of the muscle being unable to fully relax so it is important to keep them loose and mobile. Read more here in “Tightness does not always mean you need to stretch”. Specific exercises in pilates focus on opening up the chest and shoulders, the fronts of the hips, and mobilising the spine in all its directions.
If you want to try some pilates and see yourself how good it feels on your body and how well it can help your posture, you can try some of these home pilates youtube videos, or join a live online pilates class with me! These are currently running Sundays 7-8pm, Thursdays 7-8pm, and Fridays 1-2pm. Sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more info and l look forward to seeing you in class soon!