Assessing and addressing posture has become a much more relevant task for fitness professionals. Ever wonder how your personal training clients can twist left one day and all of a sudden they throw their back out? Or raise their hand and “get” frozen shoulder? Or how something as light as a paintbrush can create neck pain? The influence of posture on our clients’ activities of daily living is great enough to either increase ease and enjoyment or cause injury and pain.
Things, like putting on makeup and doing household chores, are referred to as, “Activities of Daily Living” and abbreviated as ADLs (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2019). ADLs can be highly repetitive just like fitness movements or specializing in a sport.
Other examples of ADLs are:
- Driving a car
- Working puzzles
- Using electronics
- Getting in and out of the car
- Carrying groceries from the car to the home
- Shoveling snow/clearing off the car
The Relationship Between Posture and ADLs
Being mindful of maintaining proper posture while performing ADLs may help prevent overuse injuries (Medline, n.d.). A great example of this is sitting (whether it’s while watching TV, driving a car, using our electronic devices, or reading a book). If sitting in a hunched-over position where the head is leaning forward, the shoulders rounded down, and the thoracic spine is curved into excessive kyphosis, it can contribute a postural distortion known as Upper Crossed Syndrome (Page, Frank, & Lardner, 2010) or more inclusively, Upper Body Dysfunction (Brookbush, 2013).
This is typically characterized by a forward head and rounded shoulders (Page et al., 2010). Consistently looking down at phones and other portable electronic devices can create structural issues, especially in children’s developing bodies.
Another important area that has an impact on posture is the choice in footwear. Wearing high-heel shoes can lead to the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles tightening (Page, Frank, & Lardner, 2010). The short-term effects of this could be muscle pain, spasms, and leg cramps. The long-term ramifications of this could be the development of postural distortions, low back pain, and issues in other areas of the body such as the knees and hips (Page, et al., 2010).
There is also the repetitive motion of overhead household tasks like painting, changing light bulbs, or dusting picture frames and window sills. These could impact the global shoulder muscles like latissimus dorsi and upper trapezius muscle as well as the stabilizing muscles of the rotator cuff.
A few other examples of posture-sensitive ADLs would be gardening and weeding. Performing these without keeping proper body alignment in mind, could spell disaster for the lower back and even knees.
Training Clients for Posture and ADLs
How is this relevant to fitness professionals working with clients? By creating exercise programs that support proper posture and alignment.
Choosing stretches and inhibitory techniques that address tight muscles while strengthening opposing muscle groups is the best formula to achieve balance and ideal posture. If we know our clients wear high heels and they have tight calves, we can address that through SMR foam rolling followed by stretch protocols.
Most importantly, we can educate our clients on maintaining proper posture during everyday activities. Even if clients train with us 2-3 days per week, they will spend exponentially more time during the week on ADLs. To maximize our results on the fitness floor, they should try to be aware and adjust their postures throughout the week.
Here, the subjective assessment portion of the Par-Q can come in handy, too. Not only can we technically program to support ADLs, but we can also be aware of what activities our clients like to do and program functional movements to support these activities.
To take it one step further, we as fitness professionals can be mindful of maintaining our own proper alignment and posture when we are training and spotting our clients. If we ourselves are hunched over our clients while they do crunches or are not using proper biomechanics to support our clients as they strength train heavy weights, we could be risking overuse injuries from our profession.
Proper posture and ergonomics by no means are bulletproof methods against injury prevention. Yet, it is a critical piece to allowing ourselves and our clients’ optimal movement patterning so that we can continue to perform ADLs injury-free.
In what ways have you made an effort to support your clients’ posture and everyday activities?
Page, P., Frank, C. C., & Lardner, R. (2010). Assessment and treatment of muscle imbalance: The Janda approach. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Bureau of Labor and Statistics. (2019, June 19). Average hours per day spent in primary activities for the civilian population, 2018 quarterly and annual averages. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t12.htm