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Your guide to better posture
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Why Posture Matters continued...

Good posture may also make for easier breathing for people with asthma.

"We can't prevent asthma," Millar tells WebMD. "But data show that if we can improve posture, we use our diaphragm more when we breathe, which aids in respiration and can decrease the severity of an asthmatic attack."

Good posture can also help those with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. "You can't change your skeleton, but you can minimize the effects of scoliosis and remove the discomfort it causes," Breibart tells WebMD. The same holds true for osteoporosis, she explains.

What Does Good Posture Look Like?

"There's something called 'ideal posture', and then there's the posture you normally see," Breibart says.

Millar concurs, estimating that 80% of the adult U.S. population could stand to improve their posture.

"In ideal posture, everything is lined up -- from the top of your head to the toes of your feet -- so that you're not having to resist gravity in a way that exhausts the body," Breibart tells WebMD. In this more suspended state, you should feel weightless, she says.

How do you achieve ideal posture?

"Think of pulling the entire body up, as with a string," Millar advises. From a side view, that invisible string would follow right behind and through the ear, just behind the midline of the neck, down through the shoulder joint and the hip joint, then slightly in front of the knee's midline, and in front of the ankle joint, explains Millar.

How can you tell if you're doing it right? "Look in the mirror. You can't fix your posture unless you can see it," Breibart says.

You may be shocked to see what's staring back at you.

Why We Slouch

When you consider modern-day living, our often-poor posture comes as no surprise.

Some of our daily habits promote "side-to-side imbalances," in which one shoulder is forced higher than the other.

"We're carrying laptops and large purses on the same shoulder, with cell phones squeezed in between the ear and the shoulder. Or we're sitting in our cars with cell phones crouched in our ears. All these things create side-to-side imbalances," says Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University and a spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine.

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