There’s are plenty of things, from Botox to hair dye, you can try that make you look younger, but improving your posture has to be the cheapest and fastest.
I have a tendency to slouch, and it has become worse as I’ve got older. My wife, Clare, recently told me, ‘you look just like your father’, which isn’t a compliment as my dad had terrible posture.
So I’ve been aware, for some time, that I need to do something about it.
But the real wake-up call came last week when I wandered into a room where the TV was on, and watched this elderly-looking, round-shouldered individual shuffle across the screen. With a terrible shock I realised that it was me.
Poor posture also contributes to problems such as tension headaches because it puts strain on your shoulders and neck. To find out how good — or bad — yours is try this quick check
The long hours I’ve spent crouched over a computer during lockdown certainly haven’t helped, but the truth is my posture — the classic middle-aged stance of back curved, chin down, stomach out — was pretty bad beforehand. So I’ve finally resolved to do something about it.
Fortunately, you can improve your posture at any age, and doing so will not only make you look slimmer and younger, but will cut also your risk of developing back pain, which affects around 70 per cent of British adults at some point.
That’s because sitting badly or standing in a slouched position stresses your lower back, weakening and damaging an intricate network of muscles, discs, and joints. And once you’ve damaged your back it’s hard to repair.
Poor posture also contributes to problems such as tension headaches because it puts strain on your shoulders and neck. To find out how good — or bad — yours is try this quick check.
Start with your sitting position: sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, back straight (not leaning on the back of the chair) and your ears roughly in line with your collarbone. If that feels really unnatural, or is hard to maintain, then, like me, you have work to do.
Then stand with the back of your head, shoulder blades and bottom, all pressed up against a wall. Get someone to measure the distance between your neck and the wall, and your lower back and the wall. If either is more than 2 in, you may have a problem.
So what can you do to improve your posture? Well, if you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair, then you might want to invest in a standing desk. A recent survey found that many of us spend up to 12 hours a day sitting on our bottoms looking at computers or watching television.
Start with your sitting position: sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, back straight (not leaning on the back of the chair) and your ears roughly in line with your collarbone. If that feels really unnatural, or is hard to maintain, then, like me, you have work to do
And it’s not easy to maintain good posture for that length of time. Prolonged sitting also raises your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia (largely because it leads to insulin resistance, where the cells no longer respond to the hormone, and glucose builds up in your blood).
A few years ago, I was involved in an experiment where we asked a group of ten people working in an estate agents to use a standing desk for three hours a day, for one week. Surprisingly enough, one of our volunteers said her backache really improved, as did another volunteer’s arthritis.
All improved their blood sugar levels and on average, they burnt roughly 50 calories an hour more while standing. Doing that for four hours a day is the energy equivalent of walking four miles or the calories in a bar of chocolate.
But don’t overdo it. When I first got my standing desk two years ago I spent almost all my working hours standing, only to strain my Achilles tendon. That settled after I rested it and the standing desk is back in action.
As well as standing more, there are other exercises you can do, which will strengthen your core and other muscles that are essential for maintaining good posture.
Many will be familiar to anyone who does yoga. My current favourites are Child’s Pose, Downward Dog and Cat Cow.
These positions are better seen than described but there are lots of free yoga resources online.
As well as updating my exercise regimen I’ve recently bought a posture brace, also known as a posture corrector, which stops me from slouching by pulling my shoulders back. It provides gentle pressure, a constant reminder that I need to stand better.
Doing this should help to activate and strengthen muscles I haven’t been using because I’ve been slouching.
When I pulled it out of the packet it reminded me of the reins we used on our kids when they were learning to walk: the straps go over your shoulders and then meet at a belt around your stomach.
It’s not glamorous, but fortunately you can wear it under your clothes. I’m hoping that wearing it, using the stand-up desk and doing more of those yogic exercises will transform my posture, make me look years younger and stop Clare reminding me, several times a day, ‘to stand up straight and tuck your stomach in’. A week in I think I can feel a difference already.
Covid’s still a danger, but the vaccines WILL protect us
I had my second Covid vaccine a few weeks ago and for a while I felt invulnerable. Then Andrew Marr, the BBC broadcaster revealed last week that he’d had a short but nasty bout of Covid despite having been double-vaccinated.
Andrew’s early symptoms included sneezing and a sore throat, followed by a high temperature, muscle aches and loss of smell.
Tests confirmed it was Covid. On the positive side, having the vaccines almost certainly protected him from becoming seriously ill.
But his story is a handy reminder that we still have a way to go before we can declare victory over the virus. The problem is that it is mutating, in some cases making it more infectious.
The Delta variant (the ‘India’ strain), seems to be around 60 per cent more infectious than the Alpha variant (or ‘Kent’ strain), which in turn is at least 45 per cent more infectious than the versions encountered at the start of the outbreak.
As a result, some of the advice from the beginning of the pandemic needs to be updated.
It used to be said, for example, that you couldn’t pick it up from very brief encounters. That isn’t true of the new variants. In Australia, where many cities are currently in lockdown, one outbreak seems to have been caused by nothing more than two people walking past each other in a supermarket, a moment captured on CCTV.
I’m still convinced that the vaccines we have will protect us and help us overcome Covid. But I continue to be cautious.
So no hugs or shaking hands with friends quite yet.
Locking a jaw shut won’t keep weight off
DID you see the Mail’s story this week about the rather terrifying weight-loss device that uses magnets and locking bolts to clamp your teeth together?
The magnets are so strong you can only open your mouth a fraction — enough to drink meal replacement shakes, but not solids. It was soon denounced, online, as a ‘a form of torture’, but is it really that bad?
For unlike a lot of weight loss ‘cures’ this device has, at least, been through a clinical trial (which would have been approved by an ethics committee). I’m more concerned about when the device comes off, because unless you teach people how to cope with stress and better ways of eating, they’re likely to just put the weight back on.
That’s what happened in the 1980s when patients had their jaws surgically wired shut.
Not only did they find ways around this to eat sweet treats — as a medical student I saw one patient who was liquidising Mars bars — but once the wires were removed, the weight piled back on.
Daily Mail Online