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Straighten up and fly right


THE ART OF MOVEMENT A therapist shows a client how to improve her posture using a wooden artist’s mannequin.

Fitness and Wellbeing
Paul O'Brien

Perhaps you’ve had the following experience? You are about to enter a room for an important interview or meeting. You’ve taken time to look your best and are well prepared. Just before you walk through the door, you shrug your shoulders back, straighten your back and walk a little taller. Then you step into the room, ready for action.

Power of Posture
Though you may not know the reason why, you think that these small changes in body posture will make you appear more confident and assured to those you are about to meet. Well, you’d be right.
There is much ongoing research in social psychology on how body posture affects such things as mood, confidence and even success. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy calls this the ‘postural feedback effect’, and maintains that ‘adopting powerful postures causes people to feel more powerful.’
Further research has shown that individuals who undertook tests for social stress, mood and self esteem whilst maintaining good posture showed better results than those who undertook the tests whilst slumped over. There is also supporting research that shows a correlation between good posture and increases in energy, confidence and perceptions of success and strength.
What’s the take home for us? Is it time to sit up straight and take notice? Well, yes, that and more. I tell my clients that everything in terms of movement begins with good posture. Exercising with poor posture is like driving on a weak chassis. Those working parts (muscles) around the faulty chassis (joints) must compensate to aid movement. This will eventually result in breakdown, by way of either injury or chronic pain.

Move it or lose it
Most of us are not born with a faulty chassis. This becomes obvious to me when watching my two year-old son perform a fully functional hunter gatherer squat, or his own unique gymnastic movements on top of our dog. We have been gifted bodies that requires, indeed yearns for, one thing: movement. Yet we live in a society where movement cannot be taken for granted. We sit in cars, at office desks, in front of our televisions.
Here’s a task for you. Log a regular working day. Break it into half hourly chunks. Then log your movement for each half hour – standing, sitting, lying, walking, running etc. Review this at the end of the day to establish the percentage of time you were active and inactive. Be prepared for a shock.
The bottom line is that you need to focus on moving more or you’ll have to focus on fixing yourself or some form of chronic pain later.

Simple steps
To give your body the movement it craves, incorporate these simple steps into your daily routine.
>    If you work at a desk, set a reminder on your phone for every 30 minutes. When it goes off, get up and walk around and stretch for five minutes. You’ll be amazed at the difference this simple change alone will make.
>    Take a walk around the block on your lunch break, take in some deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
>    Walk to the shops if possible. If not, park as far away from the store as you can. You’ll also get a little weight training in as you’ll have to carry the bags back to the car.
>    Stand against a wall making sure that the back of your head, shoulder blades, glutes and calves are touching the wall. You may need to remove your shoes to achieve this. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and breathe deeply as described above. After two or three minutes, step away from the wall and try to maintain the posture as you walk around for a couple of minutes.

> Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or rofstudio@gmail.com.


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