I’d like to explore some common postural problems and some exercise hacks to improve them. Notice, I said, “improve” and not “fix.” The beauty of your ever-adapting body is that you don’t have to have perfect posture to reduce pain and move better. In fact, attempting to “fix” your posture and “pursue perfect” can exacerbate pain, or worse, create new areas of nagging, relentless irritation. Instead, let’s focus on improving both through some “corrective” type exercises and increased awareness.
To begin, let’s start at your foundation: your feet. Many of us, regardless of age, walk with our feet rotated out. Some call it “walking like a duck.” This is an adaptive position the body has selected to compensate for discomfort or stiffness elsewhere. For example, ankle stiffness can lead to foot turn-out, in the attempt to make walking more efficient.” Likewise, flat feet can cause the knees to “collapse inward,” making it painful to walk with the feet straight; turning the feet out may “solve” this problem. Regardless of the reason, this little number leads to problems in other parts of your body, and can spell trouble for your knees, hips and back—even your neck—if left unattended.
So try standing with your feet straight; that is, the insides of your feet should be roughly parallel. What happens? Many of us will notice that the knee caps now point toward each other a bit. Yikes! You certainly can’t walk or run like that, so let’s see if we can improve it.
With your feet hip-width and the insides of your feet parallel, can you turn your thigh bones in your hip joints so that your kneecaps point straight ahead? To successfully hack this, you may need to negotiate with your body by turning your feet out just a little.
Now, with your feet straight-er and hip-width, and the knees pointed forward, hold onto a counter top for balance and do some “Mini-squats.” Just keep your alignment, as you bend the ankles, knees and hips a little, then push with both feet to return to standing. The objective is to work with your new-found alignment; not to do a hard workout! Try 10-12, monitoring your foot and knee position. Can you keep it?
A word of caution: if you get knee or ankle pain—or any pain with this exercise, stop immediately. You can tinker with your foot position and try again, but if you continue to have pain, it’s time to consult a professional. Improvements in posture and movement habits take time. Your feet didn’t start turning out overnight; it has taken months and years of unconscious adaptation to get this way, so you can’t expect success to come overnight. We hope you find this first hack helpful.
If there is something you sense is a little weird or wonky, and you would like to pick my brain… shoot me an email at [email protected].
Be on the lookout for Hack # 2 and Hack #3 in our upcoming newsletters!