By Dr.Beth Templin
When children are first born, tummy time is encouraged to build head control, to increase neck, shoulder and back strength, and to stretch out the hip muscles. It is a way for them to interact with the world and work on developing their brain, vision and hand strength.
For older adults there are other benefits. The first is it helps to stretch out all the tight muscles in the front of the body. Since we are prone to sitting for hours a day, the muscles in the front of our hips, the hip flexors, tend to get very tight. After decades of getting tighter, they can begin to pull on your back, leading to back pain or start to change the way you stand, contributing to a bent over posture.
Another group of muscles that gets tight as you age are the muscles in the front of your chest and neck. It's very common to see older adults with what we call a forward head posture. This is when the head drifts forward and Instead of aligning above the shoulders, it sits in front of the shoulders when looking at someone from the side. Again, this is due to multiple hours sitting and working on computers, or looking phones and tablets all day long. The problem with this change is that it not only affects the way you look, but also can have other consequences.
People with a forward head posture have an increased risk for falls, because your balance point becomes shifted forward over your toes, instead of over the balls of your feet. People with this posture also have an increased risk for compression fractures due to the increased stress on the spine.
As a forward head posture worsens, people usually develop a hunched back posture, or kyphosis, which can add pressure on the heart and lungs, leading to other health issues. This can all be improved by stretching your body out regularly.
Tummy time also has the great benefit of helping to strengthen your body. It requires much effort for some to get into a belly lying position. Some people have not laid on their bellies for years. This kind of strength is necessary for getting up and down from the floor and for moving in bed successfully. The good news is there is more than one way to get into a stomach lying position.
Method #1: Hand and knees to Belly. In this method, you would get into a hands and knees position, either on the floor or on your bed. thhen you would slowly walk your arms forward, until you are all the way down onto your belly. To get up, you would reverse the process and push up onto your elbows and walk your hands back.
Method #2: Rolling from back to Belly. To use this method, you would start on your back and then roll over onto your belly. To get out of this position, you would reverse it and roll onto your back. I would recommend trying out both methods to see which one you're more comfortable with. From my experience it's about 50/50 which method people will choose. Ideally you would be able to use both methods to get on and off your belly.
This month Dr. Kim breaks down how to position yourself to get some needed "tummy time". It's a simple activity with many benefits, and it also feels great once you're used to it. We encourage you to make it a priority in your daily life. Check out page 3 of this newsletter to get started.
-💗 Dr. Beth
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Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.