Seniors finding benefits of improving posture

Kyodo News

A posture-correction routine developed by an Osaka sports gym is becoming increasingly popular with the elderly.

In an hourlong class at the Shisei and Sports Club Big Es Kuzuha in the city of Hirakata, more than a dozen students repeat a regimen of slow moves, sometimes twisting their bodies while lying on the floor and at other times bending their elbows as they kneel and lean all the way forward.

Guided by 50-year-old instructor Sayuri Ashida, the seniors, who are mostly older than her, are told to lie on their bellies and stretch a leg and arm on one side while bending their counterparts on the other. “You don’t have to do this on the other side if it hurts,” she says.

The exercise, called “shisei kaizen taiso,” or “posture improvement exercise,” only requires you to work the side of the body that isn’t stiff. Basically, if one moves the better half of one’s body, the other side will eventually relax as the body is “connected,” Ashida explained.

“I used to suffer from pain in my waist, but I don’t have that problem anymore. I’ve actually started taking an aerobics class,” said Hide Imanishi, 74, a homemaker who began taking the posture class five years ago.

Another woman, who only gave her age as 77, said she rarely suffers from stiff shoulders since attending the class.

The gym, run by The Big Sports Co., which developed the exercise, started posture improvement classes in 2003. The company also developed a machine that measures improvements in posture. Those who take the class can observe their improvement and receive advice how to make further progress.

Today, the classes take place in 29 affiliated facilities and three sports gyms run by other firms. An estimated 130,000 people attend the class each year, according to The Big Sports. The device for measuring posture is also being used by osteopathic clinics, the company said.

Natsuko Masugi, a 28-year-old instructor, stresses the benefits to be gained by improving one’s posture.

“Posture can change people’s looks. And when it improves, it also makes people cheerful,” Masugi said, adding that developing muscle is also important to posture.