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Your guide to better posture

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.

Other habits -- like long stretches in front of a computer screen or behind the wheel of a car -- leave our spines stuck in a forward-hunching position.

Simply changing how you sit in front of our computer can do wonders for your posture. Millar suggests the following: sit with your trunk erect, not leaning back or slouching forward; uncross your knees and bend them at a 90-degree angle; line up your head over your shoulders; and keep your eyes level with the computer screen.

If you want to improve your posture plus strengthen your trunk muscles while staring at the computer screen, Olson suggests forgoing the usual desk chair and sitting on an inflatable physio ball (also called an exercise ball).

"These balls help prevent trunk muscles from getting lazy because you're forced to use them to keep you upright," Olson tells WebMD. "They also help us naturally relieve the joints of undue stress. "

Mistakes Active People Make

A sedentary lifestyle isn't the only thing wrecking our posture. You can find plenty of bad posture at your local gym, too.

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