Exercises that promote spinal flexibility, like today’s challenge, are very beneficial to overall back health. But did you know that it’s been scientifically proven that spinal flexibility has a significant impact on balance control?
Since falls are the main cause of fractures, including the dreaded hip fractures, this exercise is a valuable aid to keep you fracture-free.
So today we’ll take a look at the study on spinal flexibility and at all the reasons why the Spinal Flexibility Enhancer is such an important exercise.
We often tend to overlook the importance of spine mobility. It’s easy to think of the spine as a static column that holds us straight up, and the stiffer it is, the more stable it must be.
But in reality, the spine is both flexible and stabilizing, and the more flexible it is, the greater its range of motion and stability.
Today’s exercise targets mainly the thoracic vertebrae, which run from the base of the neck to the top of the lower back. This often-neglected area is a key player in the prevention of kyphosis (Dowager’s Hump), the promotion of proper posture, balance, and overall back strength.
After all, if your thoracic vertebrae are stiff and underused, then the neck, shoulders, and lower back will compensate, inducing pain, increasing susceptibility to injury, and affecting posture.
Why Thoracic Flexibility And Range Of Motion Matter
The thoracic vertebrae are designed to rotate, flex, and extend. When they are toned and made flexible through targeted exercises like the Spinal Flexibility Enhancer, the lower back can be relieved from compensation through excessive twisting and bending.
This is why some people sometimes “throw their lower back out” when twisting and turning – their thoracic vertebrae are lacking mobility, so their lumbar vertebrae try to take up the slack by moving than they are designed to.
Restoring thoracic mobility also increases range of motion, freeing up the scapulae and rotator cuff from the extra work of compensation, and making these areas far less vulnerable to injury. The shoulders will roll back, reducing the hunchback appearance of kyphosis and opening up greater lung capacity.
Spinal Flexibility Begins With The Muscles
The Spinal Flexibility Enhancer works the following muscles and muscle groups.
- The Rectus abdominus is right in the front of your abdomen. This is the muscle group referred to as the “abs.” Interestingly, the rectus abdominus is in two halves, separated by a line of connective tissue called the linea alba. Bending to the side, as in today’s exercise, works one side at a time.
- The Erector spinae consist of eight muscles that run down both side of your spine for the entire length. In lateral flexion (bending to the side), one side of the erector spinae is worked while the other side relaxes.
- The Obliques will be familiar to Savers who did last weekend’s exercise. When it comes to side-bending, the obliques are the muscles you think of first, because they run along your sides. There are actually three obliques, internal, external, and transverse, and all are involved in the rotation of your spine.
- The Quadratus lumborum is a fairly small muscle, but it’s important. It runs from the iliac crest of the pelvis to the lower ribs and the vertebrae of the lower back (lumbar vertebrae). These are key stabilization muscles for your lumbar spine, and like the other muscle groups, side bends work one Quadratus lymborum muscle at a time.
You don’t need any equipment to perform the basic version of this exercise, but you might want to have a chair or wall nearby to steady yourself if necessary.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Imagine pulling your belly button in toward your spine. This will tighten up your abs.
- Place one hand behind your head, leaving one arm down by your side. For the sake of clarity, we’ll say to place your left hand behind your head and let your right arm hang down.
- Bend sideways at your waist to the right, lowering your right hand downward (you can keep your hand lightly on your leg if you like).
- Come back up to the starting position.
- Repeat 10-15 times, or as many times as you feel comfortable. Then switch sides for another set of 10 or 15.
For a more intense workout, hold a weight in your downward hand while performing the exercise.
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Study Proves That Spinal Flexibility Is Vitally Important For Balance
Scientists studied the spinal flexibility of 251 adult participants. After controlling for age, gender, mood, confidence level, and many other variables, the researchers concluded that:
“Results clearly implicate spinal flexibility as a contributor to functional reach, a measure of functional limitation and an established measure of balance control.”1
In other words, spinal flexibility is essential for balance! And balance, in turn, is crucial for avoiding falls.
As mentioned earlier, falls are the major cause of fractures, especially in the elderly, which is why the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System includes plenty of balance-oriented moves that also promote flexibility.
After you try the Spinal Flexibility Enhancer, let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below.
Enjoy the weekend!
1 Schenkman, M., Morey, M., and Kuchinhatta, M. “Spinal flexibility and balance control among community-dwelling adults with and without Parkinson’s disease.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med. August 2000. 55(8): M441-5. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10952366