Good Posture, Good Life: How to Fix Your Posture and Improve Your Health

Believe it or not, your grandma was onto something with her constant nagging about good posture. A tall stance with your head up and shoulders back really is the key to appearing confident without spending another dime on clothes or makeup.

Posture isn't only a cosmetic thing, though. Bad posture -- characterized by slumped shoulders and a curved upper back -- can negatively affect everything from your appearance to your physical fitness and mental health. The reason? It puts unnecessary stress on the spine and doesn't allow your body to work the way it's meant to, according to Toby Green, DC, an Omaha, Nebraska-based chiropractor.

"Sit with a rounded back and try to take a deep breath," advises Dr. Green. "You can't."

What bad posture can do, however, is create stress on the nerves that leads to serious neck pain, muscle pain, headaches, and a whole host of other problems that can eventually make just living life a whole lot more difficult.

The good news? You have the power to fix your posture, though it takes some time, effort, and lifestyle changes to see results.

Create a better workspace

In a perfect world, your boss would plunk down the cash to outfit you with a top-of-the-line desk and chair that's perfectly fitted for your height and body. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen very often. Does that mean you're destined to live out your working days with terrible posture?

Not at all.

"Desk and the chairs are only part of the problem," says Dr. Green. "It's best to use an adjustable chair so you can raise or lower it, depending on the height of your desk."

Your computer monitor, phone, and computer mouse can also have a negative impact on your posture.

"Keep your computer monitor at eye level with a monitor extender," he says. Use a laptop at your desk? Prop that up to eye level and use an external keyboard and mouse so you're not constantly looking down.

Also, try and eliminate repetitive movements -- like using a mouse -- that can strain your arms, shoulders and back over the course of the day.

"Consider using a mouse with a track ball instead of moving it around all day," he advises. On the phone a lot? "Use a headset instead of cranking your head to the side."

Fix how you sit

Your desk and computer are only part of the equation. You have to position your body in a way that will create proper alignment of the spine.

Start from your legs and work up, advises Dr. Green.

"Position your legs so they're at a 90-degree angle with your feet on the floor," he says. "Your arms should also rest comfortably at a 90-degree angle, so you're not putting too much strain on your upper arms and shoulders."

And pay attention to how you sit on your chair.

"If you're a person that tends to lean forward when you sit, position your body at the front of the chair so you're not leaning," he says. If you tend to lean back? "Sit as far back in the chair as possible."

Fix your bad habits

The way you sit while at your desk isn't the only thing that affects your posture. The length of time you're sitting can put undue stress on your spine, so it's a good idea to take regular breaks throughout the day.

"Take a break at least once every hour," advises Dr. Green. "It promotes circulation and gives your spinal tissues a chance to recover a bit."

And pay attention to what you're doing to your body at other times of the day. Are you constantly hunched over and staring at your phone? That also causes serious strain on your spine.

Work it out

Starting a serious weightlifting regimen isn't going to help you fix your posture, according to Dr. Green. However, regular practice of yoga, Pilates and core exercises can help strengthen your body and, in turn, help improve your posture.

Seek professional help

So, you've tried everything to fix your posture and things aren't improving. Are you doomed to a life of slouching? No, it's just time to call in professional help to assess the situation.

"A good chiropractor will take x-rays of your spine and treat the root of the problem," says Dr. Green. However, that too takes patience.

"There's not a quick fix when it comes to your spine," he advises. "It'll take time."

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