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Sit up straight! Don’t slouch! We all heard those words as children—and maybe even more recently. It’s easy to get into a slumping position at your desk. And at home on the couch? Forget about it. But good posture has its benefits—less lower back pain, fewer headaches and improved breathing, to name three. Improve yours in five ways, but don’t worry. None of them includes walking down the stairs with a phone book on your head.

5 Brace Yourself

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When you need additional support, look into a posture brace. An orthopedic device can help reduce strain and guide your muscles into proper alignment. Posture Brace Headquarters explains that posture braces pull your shoulders back, forcing you to stand and sit straighter. Braces, which are usually worn over the shoulders and around the rib cage, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and price points, and are available over the counter.

4 Sleep

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Take steps to get a comfortable night’s sleep. If you wake up stiff and achy, your posture may suffer during your waking hours. A firmer mattress and a pillow can aid in proper head and neck support. Pillows designed for side, back and stomach sleepers can help you sleep, too. Some camps say sleeping on your back without a pillow improves posture. Try sleeping with and without to see what works for you.

3 Ergonomics

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Ensure that you properly position your arms, legs, back and feet when seated or performing tasks. Keep your shoulders straight and your back aligned against the back of the chair; your buttocks should touch the back, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Your arms should be flexed at the elbow at about 75 to 90 degrees. If your feet cannot comfortably reach the floor, get a footrest. If your arms are unable to remain at a proper angle, consider upgrading to a chair that allows more custom adjustments. Now, if you find yourself leaning in to see what’s on your screen, an eye exam could be in order.

2 Exercise

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Perform exercises, such as crunches, curlups and crossover situps, that strengthen the core muscle groups responsible for keeping your spine straight. Exercise also helps relax your muscles; tense muscles can throw you out of whack. The other benefit to exercise is it is easier to have good posture when you are at a healthy weight, according to personal trainer Susan Buonovi on the Christian Broadcasting Network website.

1 Sit and Stand Correctly

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Examine your current posture and be aware of how you sit and stand. Tensing up during the day, slouching over your desk or leaning more to one side when carrying something may be signs of poor posture. Elegant Woman, a manners site, recommends “drawing” a straight line from your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. This test will allow you to see where your problem areas are. You can do this on your own, but often chiropractors offer free screenings.

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