If you tend to slouch while sitting at your desk or the dinner table, maybe it's time to pay attention to your posture.
"An hour workout can’t possibly undo the other 23 hours in a day when you are otherwise sedentary or slouched," says Ingrid Knight-Cohee, regional director of group fitness of the Steve Nash World & Sports Club based in Vancouver, B.C.
So what exactly is good posture? Yes, your teachers or parents probably told you to 'sit up straight' all the time, but proper posture also includes an opened chest and lengthened spine, which should help your body feel taller and breathe easier, Knight-Cohee says.
"Technically, good posture involves stacking your major joints on top of one another for optimal support of the skeletal frame," she tells The Huffington Post Canada. "A common mistake, however, is to overemphasize good posture to a point where you’re not truly relaxed. Good posture may take effort at first, but will eventually become natural."
And posture also changes as we age. According to the Better Health Channel of Australia, as kids, most of us start of with an S-shaped posture and over the years, we start to slouch. The site also adds that poor posture can be directly linked to back pain, spinal dysfunction and joint degeneration. Ouch.
If those facts aren't scary enough, one study found people who sat for 11 hours or more per day had an increased risk of dying in the next three years, compared with those who sat for less than four hours a day, according to Time Healthland.
But Knight-Cohee says, just like anything in life, practice makes perfect — and it is possible to fix your posture after years of slouching. Getting good posture starts with stretching daily, targeting the muscles and body parts that need work and taking a break from your chair several times a day.
LOOK: To avoid a spinal mix-up and to give your back a break, here are Knight-Cohee's 10 easy stretches to fix poor posture:
HOW TO: Starting in a standing position, place your palms facing outwards and stretch your arms. This pose helps your body stand tall and strong.
HOW TO: Lying on your stomach with your hands by your shoulders, gently press your hands into the floor, while elevating the chest and arching the spine. Hold this pose for three breaths before lowering. Repeat 10 times
HOW TO: Elevate your body into a “table top” position, resting on your forearms and toes. You can modify this pose by lowering knees to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
HOW TO: In a chair or on a stability ball, extend one leg forward to stretch. Keeping the spine extended, lean forward with your chest toward the toes of the extended leg. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
HOW TO: Lying on your back, extend one leg towards the ceiling, while keeping the other one straight on the floor (modify with a bent knee). Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
HOW TO: Standing or seated, clasp both hands behind your back and extend the arms as you open your chest forward. You should feel a stretch in both in your arms and chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
HOW TO: Kneeling on all fours, gently round your back into a cat pose and extend the spine inwards for a cow stretch. Repeat 10 times.
HOW TO: In a kneeling position, sit on your heels, separate the knees and fold forward, resting your forehead on the floor. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
Low Back Twist
HOW TO: Lying on your back, pull one knee towards the chest. Gently carry the bent knee over to opposite side, and turn your head in the opposite direction. Try to keep your entire back in contact with floor. Hold for 30 second and switch sides.
HOW TO: Starting on your left knee, extend your left arm, while stretching out your right leg behind you. Here, you will feel the stretch in both your arms and legs.