The Definitive Guide to Having (and Keeping) Great Posture

Yes, even *you* can learn to sit up straight.

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Posture Isn't Just About Etiquette

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Turns out, those militant school teachers barking at us to sit up straight were onto something. Poor posture isn't just about aesthetics—it's also been linked to an increase in stress, headaches, poor digestion, joint tension and pain, and poor weight distribution. Some studies show that people with bad posture also have a higher risk of experiencing depression, shorter life expectancies, and may experience lower self-esteem. If you're hunched over while reading this, suddenly worried that your world is about to end, don't get overwhelmed—all it takes is a little bit of practice to improve.

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But First—What Does Good Posture Even Look Like?

Now, Here's How to Practice Straightening Up For Good

Getting good posture seems surprisingly easy. Straighten your spine, roll your shoulders down and back, tilt your chin high, and take deep breaths. Keeping that up for any extended period of time takes a little more dedication, however. The good news is, you can build good posture into your life with just a few simple rituals.

Tip No. 1: Stretch It Out

A little exercise, even if it's just daily stretching, can go a long way when it comes to your posture. Yoga and pilates are two of the most posture-friendly activities, because they're both heavily focused on building flexibility, core strength, and balance. Certain studios such as Perfect Posture Pilates in Queens, NY, offer posture-intensive classes that aren't just good for your back, but offer a relaxing full-body workout.

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Don't fret if you don't have a yoga or pilates studio in your area—rolling out your back with a foam roller once every few nights will stretch it out and eliminate all the lower tension caused by perpetual hunching.

The Grid Foam Roller, $40, rei.com.

Tip No. 2: Use the Buddy System

Your mind's in a million places every day, so you may not even realize that you're hunched over. Ask a friend to keep an eye out and let you know when you're slouching, or try a posture and activity tracker that will hold you accountable throughout the day.

Lumo Lift Posture and Activity Tracker:The tiny clip-on smart device connects to an app, which vibrates when you slouch. It even doubles as a fitness tracker that counts how many days you've been active and held good posture, for a little extra incentive.

Posture Mat Pan: This posture-tracking app lives on your desktop, where it uses your webcam to track the position of your head. The app will then send notifications if you slouch or crane your neck too much.

Poze:The simplest of the posture-tracking devices, the Poze tracker, works alone. Taped or clipped near your collarbone, this tracker has one function: to vibrate every every time your good posture slips for more than one minute. Its goal? To make standing up straight a habit in just three weeks.

Tip No. 3: Get Moving

Make sure you're not sitting in one position all day. Take a break at least once an hour and walk around. If you're stuck at a desk all day, try moving to a different part of your office to work, standing at a counter, or substituting your chair for a stability ball. Or, if you have the room and your office allows it, try out a standing desk.

3MT Standing Desk Top Extender Riser, $40, staples.com.

Gaiam Custom Fit Balance Ball Chair, $80, jet.com.

Tip No. 4: Develop a New Mantra

Aside from apps and gadgets, there's also the tried-and-true string technique: Simply imagine that a string extends above your head. Then, imagine someone's pulling the string upwards—the imaginary string, and therefore your head, shoulders, and spine, will remain straight and taut as they should be. Still need an extra push? Set a recurring alarm on your phone to remind you to keep your chin up.

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