Proper body alignment can help prevent excess strain on your joints, muscles and spine — alleviating pain and reducing the likelihood of injury. As a bonus, correct posture can boost your productivity and mood, as well as help you use your muscles more efficiently.

Most of us have probably heard from an early age to “sit up straight” or “don’t slouch”. 

The idea that we need to care for our spines through proper body alignment is not a new concept. However, modern life often gets in the way. Most of us spend a lot of time sitting. 

Desk jobs, watching television, computer work, eating, driving. Let’s face it, a lot of what we do is done while sitting.  We shouldn’t leave smart phones and tablets out of this equation either, as focusing at a screen in your hands for a long time puts your neck in a less than optimal position. 

Proper body alignment can help prevent excess strain on your joints, muscles and spine — alleviating pain and reducing the likelihood of injury. As a bonus, correct posture can boost your productivity and mood, as well as help you use your muscles more efficiently.

Improving your posture will likely take some time and conscious effort, but the feel-good benefits are worth it.

The American Physical Therapy Association and the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services both have research-based information and tips on improving your posture.  Simply being aware of the position of your back in everyday situations, how you sit, stand, move, and sleep can make a difference in how much back pain you have. 

More than anything, all the experts agree, Stand Up! You should stand up 32 times throughout a normal work day.  But where do you start?  Here are a few tips from the American Chiropractic Association:

Standing posture

•Hold your chest high.

•Relax your shoulders and keep them back.

•Pull in your abdomen and backside.

•Don’t lock your knees or tilt your head in any direction.

•Balance your weight on both feet.

•Keep your feet parallel.

Walking posture

 •Hold your head high.

•Look forward, not down and keep your chin parallel to the ground.

•Lightly contract your abdominal muscles.

•Slightly bend your elbows, and freely swing your arms.

•Move your shoulders naturally.

•Straighten and avoid arching your back.

Improving your posture helps improve your overall health. Speak with your health care provider if you have further questions about bettering your posture.

Amy Bartels is a nutrition and health specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Office in Camden County.