Be Well Personal Training

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Posture and Exercising with Cancer

I recently attended a posture workshop with realignment therapist Diane Whitacre ( While many of the things she covered were a nice review, she made some very interesting points regarding sleeping position and correct postural alignment. She believes we should sleep on our backs, without pillows, with our palms facing up. She might be on to something. Pillows are a fairly modern invention, and I can’t imagine our cavemen ancestors sleeping on their sides in a fetal position on the hard ground. It would have been uncomfortable. They would have been most comfortable on their backs on the hard floor. I decided to give it a go for 21 days (the amount of time it takes something to become a habit). Night one was yesterday and, while I wasn’t exactly successful (I lasted 2 1/2 hours on my back with no pillow. I did, however, have a pillow under my knees to keep my back in a neutral position (I have a small pelvic tilt)), when I returned to sleeping on the pillow, I was surprised to find without a pillow was actually more comfortable. Her theory, which is fairly well proven, is our bodies adapt to the position we spend the most time in. For many of us, we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, and if we aren’t sleeping in an anatomically correct position, your posture during the day is going to be effected. I will report back after day 21. The other thing she felt strongly about was the position of our shoulder blades. If our scapula are not in a good position (i.e. flat on our backs), and we have any indication at all of upper crossed syndrome, there will be pain. I have seen this time and time again in the clients that I work with who spend a lot of time on the computer. If your shoulders are rounded forward at all, it is important to maintain a stretching program for your pectoralis major and minor and a strengthening program for the upper and mid back, with a strong emphasis on the latissimus dorsi. A great way to stretch the chest muscle group is by lying on the foam roller and make snow angels. This allows gravity to gently stretch the muscles and, by moving your arms, you will find you are stretching different aspect of the chest. A great way to strengthen the upper to mid back region is by performing a standing row. The cable can be set at various levels (a high row will emphasize the latissimus while a lower row will emphasize the trapezius and rhomboids). Think about gently opening your chest as you row back, and don’t let the shoulders elevate. If you can, perform the exercises standing; we sit enough during our everyday lives. We shouldn’t be sitting while exercising too.
The sister of a friend of mine recently passed away from breast cancer. I don’t know much about the situation, but I know it was a 16 month fight. If you or someone you know has any form of cancer, be sure to keep active. According to a study done at Copenhagen University and summarized at, cancer patients who participated in an exercise program of varying intensities reported less fatigue than those who did not participate in an exercise program. While I am certainly not suggesting a person with cancer should train for a marathon, I do think keeping up a walking program and some strength and balance training will greatly benefit a person’s quality of life.
Yours in health and wellness,

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