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Ask the Expert: How to maintain a healthy and mobile spine at any age

How to maintain a healthy and mobile spine at any age

If you’ve ever taken a STOTT PILATES® class, you’ve probably noticed the emphasis on spinal articulation in a number of exercises.

We asked physical therapist and Merrithew® Instructor Trainer Pablo Vera to explain why spinal articulation is so important and how we can maintain a healthy spine during a time of increased sedentary activity.

The importance of spinal articulation

The truth about the body is “use it or lose it,” Pablo says.

We’re built to move and stay active. The day we stop moving, that’s the day our body will start to adapt to inactivity.

“In order to maintain the body’s normal function, the spine needs to adapt as it helps transfer the load through the body.”

“If we have a stiff spine, we will lose part of our function and other parts of our body may compensate as a result of this lack of motion. So, it’s really important to combine movement and stability; we need to do it with control and that’s why we call it ‘dynamic stability.’”

According to many scientific publications, there are several benefits related to spinal mobility, including:

  • Improved range of motion in the joints
  • Faster reaction time and agility. If the spine is used to moving, the nervous system will be more quickly able to respond and adapt when forces cross the body
  • For injury prevention. Movement helps stimulate the creation of new synovial fluid inside the joints. This is crucial for articular cartilage to help prevent osteoarthritis
  • Improved neuromuscular control for daily activities
  • Stress reduction

How STOTT PILATES helps improve spinal stability and mobility

“STOTT PILATES is a perfect method for helping us maintain spinal mobility and stability as it is a form of ‘functional exercise’ – helping us restore and maintain function for everyday life. In all STOTT PILATES workouts, we can incorporate spinal articulation for all planes of motion and adapt/modify thousands of exercises for individual needs,” Pablo says.

Spinal articulation exercises to practice at home

“There are thousands of different exercises you can do at home to maintain or restore spinal mobility. Just try to adapt every exercise to your body starting with small ranges of motion and then progressing.”

Pablo’s favorite exercises are:

  • For full flexion/extension: Roll Down Standing or Cat Stretch
  • For rotation: Archer or Spinal Articulation
  • For thoracic extension: Breaststroke Sitting
  • For lateral flexion: Mermaid Sitting

As for whether there’s a ‘best time’ to practice spinal articulation exercises, Pablo says “the best exercise is the one that is done.”

“Try to move at least two or three times each day and introduce some spinal articulation exercises into your routine. Remember to adjust the number of repetitions to your body, but a goal can be at least 10 to 12 repetitions. However, if you’re going to do other kinds of activities, such as weight training, my recommendation is to move the spine as a warm-up and also at the end as a cool-down.”

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