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Why We Slouch continued...

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.

"You see people on the Stairmaster, and they're usually not aware of their posture. They're often hunched over, their head buried in a book," Olson tells WebMD. This increases an unwanted curve in the spine and places undue pressure on the lower back.

If this sounds familiar, try this the next time you hit the Stairmaster:

  • Slow down the machine to a level where you can comfortably rest your fingertips on the handrails -- don't grip the handlebars,
  • Look straight ahead. If you must read a book or magazine, make sure it's at eye level.

Curved spines abound in yet another popular gym pursuit -- indoor cycling.

"In indoor cycling class, people are often working harder than they should, which is forcing them to hunch over the handlebars," Olson says. She suggests that they slow down to where they can maintain a relatively flat, upright back.

Overworking certain muscles while ignoring others also leads to postural imbalances.

"It's easy to see pectoral and abdominal muscles," Millar says. So people tend to focus on them, but neglect other muscles that help support good posture, like those in the back.

Some sports can also be problematic.

"Golfers often develop imbalances in their torso, because they're constantly swinging from left to right, and that can lead to poor posture," Gorrell tells WebMD. She suggests that golfers compensate by swinging the opposite way twice after hitting the ball.

"Tennis and racquetball also create a bit of a muscular imbalance," she says. Switching the side you hit from can minimize these imbalances.

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