health spinalHow often do you think about spinal health? Never, right?

That’s probably your answer – but it may not be entirely true.

Because if you think about posture, you’re thinking about spinal health, if you realize it or not!

Keeping your spine long, straight, strong, and flexible – in other words, maintaining good posture – really is the same thing as taking care of spinal health.

Standing tall and sitting up straight are perfect first steps to proper posture, but if you aren’t doing exercises as well then you aren’t doing everything you can to take care of your spinal health.

Which is why we’ve come up with these six exercises to help improve spinal health.

Assessing the Situation

It helps to know what part of your spine you need to improve, so start with an assessment.

Wear something body hugging – even your underwear or just running shorts and a jog bra, for women – and take two pictures, one full front and one from the side.

You should be standing with your back straight, shoulders back but relaxed, chin neutral, and feet hip-width apart.

Starting from the head and working your way down, look for these markers of spinal health in the pictures.

  • Where is your ear? It should be in the midpoint of your shoulder. If it’s in front of that, your neck isn’t straight.
  • Can you see your shoulder blade? If so, your back is too curved.
  • Are your shoulders level? They should be. If one appears higher than the other, then you have what’s known as an elevated shoulder.
  • Do your hips tilt forward? Is your lower back arched disproportionally? If so, your pelvis is tilted.

Luckily, you can correct any or all of these with easy exercises. You won’t just improve your posture, you’ll improve your spinal health, too!

Getting Started with Exercise

Any exercise that strengthens your core muscles will help improve your spinal health, but if you haven’t been targeting those areas, it’s wise to start slowly.

1. Chin Drop. This helps your spinal health by relaxing the muscles in the back of your neck. Sit or stand with your shoulders down and relaxed, and your head neutral. Moving only your head, lower your chin to your chest. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back of your neck. Hold for a count of five. Repeat this exercise ten times per day.

2. Snow Angels. Remember the game you played every winter as a child? Take it indoors! Lie down on the floor, on your back, with your arms over your head. Move your arms up and down, as if you were making snow angel wings, for two to three minutes. This will help improve spinal health by increasing flexibility and range of motion in your shoulders. Start and end your day with this one.

3. Shoulders. While you’re on the floor, roll onto your stomach. Your arms should be at 90* angles, as if you were giving someone a high-five. Keep your arms in that position, but raise them by squeezing your shoulder blades together. You should feel this in your shoulders. Hold for five seconds then relax. Repeat this twelve times, three to four times a day if possible. Aim for at least morning and night.

4. Marriage Proposal. This one improves spinal health by addressing a pelvic tilt. If you can, kneel on your left knee with the right foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent, in the typical proposal position. Press your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip. Tighten your left glute muscles (the ones in your butt) until you feel a slightly deeper stretch. Hold this for thirty seconds. Perform three on each side.

5. Cobra. This is a more advanced move, but will really help with spinal health by extending the spine and helping to prevent slouching. Start face down on the floor, legs extended, palms flat on the floor about shoulder height. Using your back muscles more than your arms, lift your chest off the floor until your arms are fully extended. Your back should be curved, hips and legs still touching the ground. Keep your neck relaxed and in natural alignment. Slowly lower back down to the floor. Repeat as many times as possible, aiming for three to five, morning and evening. Note – this is NOT a push-up. You should feel it in your back muscles, not your arms.

6. Plank. Another advanced move, plank strengthens just about every muscle in your entire core, from your abs (tummy) around to your back, because spinal health is about more than just your spine! Stay on the floor, lying on your stomach. Rest your hands flat, under your shoulders. Extend your legs, as if you are doing a push-up. Curl your toes until you are resting your weight on them. Using your arms, lift your upper body until you’re a straight line – or plank – from your neck to your ankles. Don’t lift your hips or let your back sag. Hold for as long as you can, up to a full sixty seconds. Slowly lower yourself back to the ground. Note – as with pushups, you can do this one on your knees if you need!

Improving your spinal health doesn’t require you already be in great shape. And you don’t need to eat any strange diet.

Just follow these six, easy exercises morning and evening and before long, you’ll see – and feel – a difference!