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Woman Sitting On Pilates Ball Using Computer

Do You Slouch? Improve Your Health with Better Posture

When babies learn to sit, they elongate their spine, which is naturally efficient and comfortable. Moreover, it provides the most skeletal support without requiring a lot of muscle strength. Despite this, around 4-years old, most of us began to slump. Why? Well, significantly, it’s probably because we started school and began spending more time sitting.

Poor posture often results from weak core muscles, and weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Also, most neck pain not caused by trauma is usually the result of poor posture and weak muscles supporting our head. For example, sitting at our computers, or hunching over our phone for several hours can strain our neck, and shoulders.

More importantly, strong core muscles lessen wear and tear on the spine. And that prevents falls and injuries. Strengthening your abdominal muscles improves your posture and enhances balance and stability.

You might not notice these actions: putting on shoes, picking up a package, or turning to look behind you, until they become difficult or painful. Core-centric activities include acts that spring from, or pass through, the core: lifting, twisting, carrying, hammering, reaching overhead — even vacuuming, mopping, and dusting.

What is Good Posture?

Good posture doesn’t mean standing like a stiff piece of board. Many people overcompensate for bad posture by standing up too straight. When our posture is correct, our ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles align naturally. Good posture looks natural and relaxed.

Don’t Slouch! There is Power in Good Posture

Maintaining good posture is not easy. And despite the importance of good posture, most of us don’t do anything to improve it. As a result, we go about our lives uncomfortably hunching our backs and slouching. Practicing good posture strengthens our abdominal muscles and builds low back stability. If these muscles are weak, we’re more apt to slouch. For example, we may start the day sitting upright, but soon we’re lost in our work and slouching once again.

Good posture has many benefits. It aligns your body, and makes you look taller (you can lose 2 inches by slouching). Good posture even speeds up your metabolism (burn up to 350 calories a day). At the same time, having good posture reduces pain by using your muscles to support your skeleton) and improves your mood. (Don’tSlouch)

How to Improve Your Posture

Proper posture includes alignment, balance, and alignment. You’ll see immediate improvements in your posture by practicing the following two exercises. All you need is a wall. These two, quick and easy exercises realign and strengthen your muscles and ease pain and achiness that results from poor posture.

Exercise 1: The Chin Tuck is an exercise to strengthen your neck muscles. Start standing with your back to a wall. Extend your neck, keeping your gaze forward, and lean back so the back of your head touches the wall. You can also place a pillow behind your head if you can’t move all the way back. Keep your gaze forward, so that your chin is parallel with the floor. Retract your chin towards the wall until you you’re your neck muscles contract, then release the contraction. Repeat this movement 10 times.

Exercise 2: Wall Angels stretch your chest muscles, improve shoulder range of motion, and strengthen your upper back. Start standing with your back and head against a wall and your feet about 6 inches from the wall. With your arms at your side, face your palms forward. Slide your arms out to the side along the wall, bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Continue sliding your arms up along the wall to about 45 degrees above your shoulder. Stop when you feel your shoulders elevate or if you feel pain. Return your arms back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Jacqueline Gikow, is the owner of Audacious Living NYC™.  Her holistic, health and wellness practice centers on pain relief through better movement. She is certified through the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBCHWC), the Functional Aging Institute (FAI), Medfit (MFN), and the Arthritis Foundation (AFAP/AFEP). Her fitness practice includes in-home and remote, one-on-one fitness training and coaching in New York City. Jacqueline Gikow can be reached at: https://audaciouslivingnyc.com, or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/audaciouslivingnyc




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Stop Sitting: It’s Time to Take a Stand!

We probably know that sitting can be bad for our health. In fact, sitting has been called the “new smoking.” So, if you’re laid out on a couch, or plopped in a chair right now, you might have the most common health problem in America today — Sitting Disease. That might sound silly, but prolonged sedentary living plays a substantial role in a lot of the health concerns of our time.

The U.S. is a world leader in sloth. Seventy-five percent of the population of the United States fails to meet even the minimum government recommendation for daily exercise. And latest statistics shows that the highest rates of inactivity remain among those ages 65 and over. This epidemic is not confined to any region of the United States either. It is ubiquitous in both rural and urban communities and both the wealthy and the poor. (1) (2)

Chronic diseases are major killers in the modern era, and physical inactivity is a primary cause of most of them. Depressing, huh! Well, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Increasing our physical activity can result in substantial increases in both the number and quality years of life. Adults who are physically active are healthier and less likely to develop many chronic diseases than adults who aren’t active — regardless of their gender or ethnicity.

Physical activity/exercise is also the primary way we can slow down biological aging, as well as prevent or delay premature death from 35 chronic conditions, including: low cardiorespiratory fitness, obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, depression and anxiety, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, balance, bone fracture/falls, many cancers, erectile dysfunction, and pain. (3)

Get Up and Move

It’s time to take a stand! Get on your feet and out of the computer-typing, cell phone using, freeway-driving position you find yourself in all too often.

Of course, it can be tough to schedule time to exercise when you want to see the hottest thing on Netflix, there’s Haagen-Dazs in the freezer; actually, if you’ve got anything better to do with your time. For a lot of us, the most pressing question about exercise is: How little can I get away with?

It turns out, doing anything is better than doing nothing. This means you can get the same health benefits as people who work out in a gym but spend the rest of their time sitting. Staying active throughout the day results in similar benefits to doing a rigorous workout.

We can reverse three to four decades of inactivity by performing easy, bodyweight, multi-joint movements that use more muscles. Even doing twice-a-week leg exercises strengthens them. And small gains in leg strength make a big difference in everyday life. It can get easier to get out of that chair, climb stairs, and carry groceries. Incorporating exercises for leg strengthening into your regular workouts may also aid in fat loss. And you’ll improve your balance. (4)

So, What’s the Drill?

Most government guidelines define physical inactivity as anything less than 150 minutes of walking or moderate physical activity per week. Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving — not just traditional exercise. The process of adding activity to your busy life can be difficult, but it can be done. Even lifelong exercisers had to start somewhere.

150 minutes each week may sound like a lot of time, but the good news is you don’t have to do it all at once. You can meet this goal by breaking it into smaller chunks of time during the day to. Take a 10-minute brisk walk and repeat it three times a day, five days a week. By adding structured, planned, intentional movement to your days, you can reap additional life benefits, increasing the health of your heart and lungs, improving muscular and bone strength, and increasing flexibility. (5)

Look for ways to be active that are fun and work for you. My vision is to guide you to live, work, and play actively, no matter your age, where you live, or your ability.

Jacqueline Gikow, whose holistic, health and wellness practice centers on pain relief through better movement, is the owner of Audacious Living NYC™. She is certified through the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBCHWC), the Functional Aging Institute (FAI), Medfit (MFN), and the Arthritis Foundation (AFAP/AFEP). Her fitness practice includes in-home and remote, one-on-one fitness training and coaching in New York City. Visit Jacqueline’s website at audaciouslivingnyc.com, or on Facebook.



  1. http://www.physicalactivitycouncil.com/pdfs/current.pdf
  2. http://harvardmagazine.com/2004/03/the-power-of-exercise
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/
  5. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/

Increase Core Strength by Improving Your Breathing

“Core strength” is a popular fitness buzz term, but what’s the big deal all about? Core strength is essential for all our movements. The core is a collection of muscles that stabilizes the central muscles in our torso and spine. As our body’s center, our core has the big task of holding us upright. A strong core makes everyday activities easier to do.

You might think core training is all about lying on a yoga mat doing interminable “crunches.” But there’s way more to core training than aiming for a flat tummy or a “six-pack.”.

Importantly, you use your core when you put on shoes and when turning to look behind you. Likewise, reaching that box on your top kitchen shelf, or sitting in a chair are activities rely on a strong core. In fact, you might not notice a weak core until these activities become difficult or painful. Significantly, a strong core is also how you avoid back pain as you get older.

Breathing Helps Build Core Strength

The key to building core strength is by employing stomach-based, diaphragmatic breaths, so that our torso and ribcage expand forward, back, and to the sides. Breathing in is bodyweight exercise that lengthens the transverse abdominis muscles and obliques, which helps build core strength. Breathing correctly can increase flexibility and lower the risk of exercise-related injury. Also, a strong core helps with things like balance, and, oh yeah… it makes you look thinner.

4 Common Breathing Problems

1.Your neck, chest, and shoulder muscles feel tight. If you carry a lot of tension in the muscles around and under your neck, those muscles may feel painful or tender. Poor diaphragmatic control can cause neck and shoulder muscles to become short and tight. Slouching means you’re not activating your diaphragm when you breathe.

2. You sigh, or yawn frequently. If you must take a deep breath, sigh, or yawn every few minutes, it’s a sign that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen when you breathe.

3. You breathe with your mouth open. Unless you have a sinus infection or congestion that prevents you from breathing through your nose, your mouth should be closed as you breathe.

4. Your resting breath rate is too fast. A normal, resting breath rate should be about 12-20 breaths per minute. If the number of times you breathe each minute is too fast, your breathing is probably shallow. A normal respiratory rate keeps the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide even in the body.

4 Ways to Practice Correct Breathing

1. Keep your shoulders still. Sit in a chair that has arms on the side. Support your arms and elbows by the arms of the chair. As you inhale through your nose, push down onto the arms of the chair. Exhale while you purse your lips and release any pressure on the arms of the chair. The purpose of this exercise is to keep you from elevating your shoulders as you inhale, which can cause upper chest breathing.

2. Slow your breath. Pursing your lips forces you breathe more slowly. Start by creating as small an opening as possible in your mouth when you breathe. Imagining you’re blowing through a straw or blowing at a candle only hard enough for it to flicker, but not blow it out. Breathe in through your nose for 2-4 seconds, then breathe out for 4-8 seconds, keeping your lips pursed. Repeat this for about 3-5 minutes.

3. Use upper chest resistance. Lie on your back, place a hand on your upper chest, apply slight downward pressure to the hard bone (your sternum) in the middle of your chest and maintain that pressure while you inhale and exhale. This will force you to “bypass” your chest while breathing and start to breathe from deep within your belly.

4. Blow up a balloon. When you blow up a balloon, you activate your abdominal muscles, align your spine and pelvis, and contract your diaphragm. Blowing up a balloon works your deep core muscles. It also requires all your mid-section muscles to work together. Sit on a chair with a straight back, or the floor against a wall, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground without leaning against the chair back or wall. Inhale deeply from your nose with your mouth closed, pushing your belly out. Then exhale by blowing slowly into the balloon, exhaling as much air as you can. Your deep abdominal muscles activate as you blow into the balloon.

Jacqueline Gikow, whose holistic, health and wellness practice centers on pain relief through better movement, is the owner of Audacious Living NYC™. She is certified through the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBCHWC), the Functional Aging Institute (FAI), Medfit (MFN), and the Arthritis Foundation (AFAP/AFEP). Her fitness practice includes in-home and remote, one-on-one fitness training and coaching in New York City. Visit Jacqueline’s website at audaciouslivingnyc.com, or on Facebook.