Has anyone ever told you to stand up straight? Or scolded you for slouching at a family dinner? Were they looking out for you and wanting you to receive all the benefits that good posture brings? Or were they just nagging for the sake of nagging?
Comments like that might be annoying, but they're not wrong.
Your posture - the way you hold your body when you're sitting or standing, is the foundation for every movement your body makes. It can determine how well your body adapts to the stresses on it. These stresses can be things like carrying weight or sitting in an awkward position. Or the big one we experience all day every day - gravity.
If your posture isn't optimal, your muscles have to work harder to keep you upright and balanced.
Some muscles will become tight and inflexible. Others will become inhibited.
Over time these dysfunctional adaptations impair your body's ability to deal with the forces on it.
Poor posture inflicts extra wear & tear on your joints and ligaments, increases the likelihood of accidents and makes some organs, like your lungs, less efficient.
Researches have linked poor posture to scoliosis, tension headaches and back pain, though it isn't the exclusive cause of any of them.
Posture can even influence your emotional state and your pain sensitivity.
So there are a lot of benefits to gain with good posture.
But it's getting harder these days. Sitting in an awkward position for a long time can promote poor posture. And so can using computers or mobile devices which encourage you to look downward.
Many studies suggest that on average, posture is getting worse.
So what does good posture look like and how will it benefit me?
When you look at the spine from the front or the back, all 33 vertebrae should appear stacked in a straight line.
From the side, the spine should have 3 curves - one at your neck, one at your shoulders and one at your lower back.
You aren't born with this S-shaped spine. Babies' spines just have one curve like a C.
The other curves usually develop at about 12 to 18 months, as the muscles strengthen. These curves help us stay upright and absorb some of the stress from activities like walking and jumping.
If they are aligned properly, when standing you, you should be able to draw a straight line from a point just in front of your shoulders to behind your hip to the front of your new to a few inches in front of your ankle.
This keeps your centre of gravity directly over your base of support.
Which allows you to move efficiently with the least amount of fatigue and muscle strain.
If you're sitting, your neck should be vertical, not tilted forward. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your arms close to your torso. Your knees should be at a right angle with your feet flat on the floor.
But what if your posture isn't that great - what can you do to make it better?
Try redesigning your environment.
Try adjusting your screen so it's at or slightly below eye level. Make sure all parts of your body, like your elbows and wrists, are supported, using ergonomic aids if you need to.
Try sleeping on your side with your neck supported and with a pillow between your legs.
Wear shoes with low heels and good arch support. Use a headset for phone calls.
It's also not enough to just have good posture and expect all the benefits. Keeping your muscles and joints moving is extremely important. In fact, being stationary for long periods with good posture can be worse than regular movement with bad posture.
When you do move, move smartly.
Keep anything you're carrying close to your body. Backpacks should be in contact with your back, carried symmetrically.
If you sit a lot, get up and move around occasionally and be sure to exercise. Using your muscles will keep them strong enough to support you correctly on top of all the benefits to your bones, joints, brain and heart.
And if you're really worried, check with a physical therapist. Because yes, you really should stand up straight.