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Standing Chest Stretch can help with muscle imbalance

Project Activate® — Support Independence and Resilience!


Last updated 7/7/2020 at 7:49am

From Montana Office on Aging and Brilliant Aging

Weeks of sedentary days can threaten your independence. Join us for simple activities you can do at home to support independence a resilience.

Losing physical function was considered a normal part of aging, but now we know better. It’s very common and predictable, but preventable! Build up your functional reserves of strength, mobility and endurance to protect your independence.

Daily activities such as lifting, carrying, dressing and getting out of a chair or tub require arm strength. If you feel fatigued after completing small tasks that once seemed easy, it’s time to intervene! Improve strength by asking your muscles to do more than they’ve been doing on a regular basis.

Daily activities such as walking, rising from a chair, getting into and out bed, the tub, or a car require leg strength. If you feel fatigued after completing some of these basic functional tasks it’s time to intervene, as leg strength is key to remaining independent!

It’s very common to gradually end up with a “forward leaning” posture that can contribute to the risk for falls. Proper alignment is often described as being “lifted up” by a string with the head, shoulders, hips and knees all in alignment. When the shoulders and head round forward your center of gravity moves forward out of alignment, increasing the risk of falling. Good posture keeps the shoulders open and centered — not rounded forward — to support better alignment and walking balance, but it requires a little special attention.

Part of the challenge is that many daily activities, such as washing dishes, preparing meals and yard work, occur in front of the body, therefore repeatedly contracting and shortening the chest muscles. In contrast very few daily activities require you to contract and shorten the upper back muscles, so they lengthen which contributes to poor posture.

To counteract this common muscle imbalance, the standing chest stretch helps you lengthen the chest muscles. The Reach and Squeeze exercise presented in an earlier column also helps strengthen back muscles to help equalize strength between the chest and upper back.

Always follow a physician’s advice on exercise:

Standing Chest Stretch

Stand in a doorway with your arms on the door-jam and elbows at a 90° angle as shown. Place the right foot slightly in front of the left for stability and control. Gently lean forward to stretch the chest muscles. Hold for 15-30 seconds while breathing normally. Relax, shake out the arms and repeat exercise by placing the left foot in front and leaning forward. Repeat full sequence three times.


For healthy aging resources and consulting visit Brilliant Aging at http://www.kayvannorman.com

For services and support for people 60 and older and their caregivers call 1-800-551-3191 or visit https://dphhs.mt.gov/seniors .


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