Posture Perfect

Is posture really important, and how can you improve your posture?Practicing proper body mechanics, or good posture, is as essential to good health as eating right and exercise. The benefits of good posture include the correct weight distribution, as well as the proper alignment of bones and joints so they can work and move appropriately which minimizes added stress and strain on your back. Improper posture, such as slouching, sitting on a wallet in a back pant's pocket, sitting slumped forward, and carrying a heavy purse or backpack all put extra pressure on your spine, which may eventually cause back pain and injury. Need more encouragement? Good posture makes you look taller, slimmer and more confident.

Good posture not only minimizes stress on your spine, but conserves energy. Below are a few tips on proper body mechanics:

If you sit and work at a desk (say, typing at a keyboard) for hours at a time, take regular, short breaks by standing, stretching and walking around. This not only invigorates your circulation, but eases the strain on your back caused by sitting. If your can, try sitting on a stability ball. Balancing on these balls encourages good posture while strengthening your core abdominal muscles.

Ergonomic desk chairs are another good option, particularly a chair that offers good back and arm support.

When sitting, the best height for your work surface is two inches below your bent elbow. Your forearms and upper legs should be well supported and level to the floor. Also, an angled work surface for reading and writing is less stressful on your neck

If you stand while working, a comfortable work surface height should not cause you to stoop.

Sitting stick straight at a desk is less than ideal, and new research suggests that it may be best to lean slightly back from your work surface, at angle of about 135 degrees.

Carry heavy objects close to your chest, and support their weight on your forearms. To pick up objects on the floor, especially heavy ones, do bend from the waist as you lift as this strains the lower back. Instead, grip the object in your hands, tighten your abdominal muscles, and use your leg muscles [not your arms and back] to rise and straighten up.

Good posture even counts while sleeping. The best position for sleeping may be the fetal position, on your side with one or both knees drawn up, your head slightly forward and your back slightly curved. This position lets your organs spread out, allows for easier breathing, and removes pressure from your spine. A firm pillow should be used to support your head and neck, and you can even stuff a flat pillow between your knees to improve back alignment.

See your mother was right — good posture is important.