Active aging is the new buzz word. Instead of focusing on anti-aging, people are focusing on active aging, also known as pro-aging. And guess what? Aging begins the moment we are born with visible signs beginning as early as our mid-30s.
Today we search and search for that product or food that promises to keep us young. But one of the most effective, inexpensive and pain-free ways to look and feel years younger is right in front of us: It is exercise. Study after study tells us that exercise is the one natural thing we can do to improve our health, our moods and yes, active aging. Daily stretching and movement keeps the body flexible, and as they say in yoga, "You are only as young as your spine is flexible".
Kyphosis or the rounding of the thoracic spine is a sure sign of aging. To keep the upper-spine strong we need to reverse our natural tendency to roll the shoulders forward and hunch the back. When sitting at a desk, computer or driving in a car, we tend to slouch forward causing a rounding to the thoracic area of the spine.
In my stability ball class we use a few good exercises to reverse the forward slouching, open up the thoracic area, and strengthen the shoulder and neck muscles. Try them out:
Sit on a stability ball of appropriate size. A 45-centimeter ball should work for 4 feet 6 inches to 5 feet tall. From 5 feet to 5 feet 5 inches choose a 55-centimeter ball and for 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 2 inches choose a 74-centimeter ball.
Feet should be planted on the floor hip-width apart. Slowly roll forward letting the ball slide down your back until your shoulders and head are resting on the ball. Take your arms and bring them straight up towards the ceiling. The shoulders should be slightly lifted off the ball. Drop the shoulders back onto the ball and then drop your hands down the sides of the ball towards the floor. The chest lifts and opens and the shoulders stretch back. Bring the arms back up and repeat about eight times.
Roll up onto the ball and sit with knees bent and feet on the floor. Tuck in your abdominal muscles and bring your arms up, making fist and flexing your muscles, Popeye style. Hold your core tight and twist side to side, about eight on each side. Then stop in the middle, take in a deep breath and release. This simple exercise will strengthen your core, straighten the spine, and lift up through the thoracic region strengthening the upper back and shoulders.