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Improve Your Posture

And look instantly taller, slimmer, and more confident!
We're frequently told that good posture has definite benefits for our health, but what is considered 'good' posture? "When standing, your ear, shoulder, hip and ankle shoulder all be in line and your head and shoulders should be over your hips," says Sarah Woodbridge, an Occupational Therapist and Ergonomist based in Derby, England. "This posture allows the natural curves of your spine to flow, and the weight of your body to be evenly distributes throughout the spine."

Many of us, unfortunately, don't do this and are prone to slouching, which can put stress on the wrong parts of the body. If not kept in check, your posture health will suffer and you can end up with permanently poor posture.

What causes poor posture?

"People often feel that back problems only occur with lifting heavy objects, but often it is because of repetitive and awkward postures, or because a poor posture such as sitting slouched or twisted has been sustained for a long period or repeated over many days," explains Woodbridge. Everyday activities like driving, spending a lot of time using a computer or telephone, and always carrying a shoulder bag or a heavy bag are all common culprits of bad posture.

Side effects of poor posture

Poor posture can have a range of consequences for your health. Most obviously there is the pain and discomfort associated with holding muscles in the wrong positions for extended periods of time. "When sitting, people tend to slouch and form a 'C' posture with the head poking forwards and the back rounded," says Woodbridge. "This posture flattens the lumbar curve, the curve in our lower back, and can lead to back ache." Bad posture can also lead to headaches and jaw pain because the head and shoulders are pushed forward.

Healthy posture checklist

Achieving a better posture is often just a matter of changing the way you stand and sit but there's an art to it. "Don't just stick your chest out, you wont be able to sustain that posture for long," explains Woodbridge. "Focus on aligning the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle in a relaxed posture, using your tummy and buttock muscles to maintain the posture."

Stand tall
Keep your head straight over your neck, ears over shoulders so that you can look directly ahead without feeling tension in your neck. Your shoulders should be down and your back straight -- this will help prevent tension around the shoulders. Besides improved posture, you'll also look taller, slimmer and more confident, which gives a boost to your ego.

Tighten up your abs
Whether you're standing or sitting, you'll benefit from this posture corrector. Suck in your stomach muscles are far as possible and then partially release them so that you can still feel that the muscles are being worked. Repeatedly performing this exercise help to tone the stomach muscles, as well as limiting lower back pain.

Check your legs
Believe it or not, bad posture can start with your knees. Instead of locking or hyperextending your knees, keep them relaxed and just slightly bent, which will help bring your pelvis into a more neutral position. It is also important to balance your body weight equally on both legs. Stand with your feet slightly apart so you toes point almost straight ahead whether you're standing or walking.

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