The most compelling reason for practicing good posture is the simple fact that eventually you'll be able to forget about it. "Through constant practice, your brain creates a neural imprint that recognizes when the spine is offset," explains Marcus Elliott, a sports-medicine consultant to athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. "While your mind is on other things, your brain takes over to straighten your spine without any conscious effort." But before you start cranking out those neural imprints, it might be wise to check your form. The key pointers from Elliot:
At the Desk or Behind the Wheel
• Flatten your lower back into the chair. This will ensure that you aren't either overarching or rounding at the waist.
• Position your seat so that whatever it is you need to see—a computer screen, a customer, a double yellow line—is directly in front your eyes. The idea is to not have to tilt your head up or down for an extended period of time.
• Be sure that you don't lock your knees when standing. The correct position, with your legs bent just a few degrees, prevents your hips from rolling forward and takes pressure off your lower back.
• Imagine there's a string attached to your head that's pulling you upward, as if you were a marionette.
• Pull your shoulder blades back to sqaure them off so that you could run a straight edge from the back of one shoulder to the other.
• Hold your head high when running, looking toward the horizon rather than at your feet or to the side.
• Avoid crossing your arms in front of you as you run, since it forces your postural muscles to strain to recenter your torso with each stride, wasting energy.
• Lie down in the fetal position on a firm mattress. Avoid using a thick pillow, which can crimp your neck.