We all know that having good posture is important, but you might not know that having bad posture can affect your overall health. Poor posture results from certain muscles tightening up or shortening while others lengthen and become weak. This often occurs as a result of one’s daily activities. The way we sit, stand, walk, lift and sleep all impact our posture. A child’s heavy backpack or an adult’s eight-hour workday at a computer desk can both have detrimental effects on posture and overall health. For example, the manner in which we sit affects our internal organs. “Your pelvis is designed to house your pelvic organs, like your bladder, your colon, and (for females) your uterus and it likes to be in an environment where it doesn’t have all of these pressures forced down on it,” explained Jill Miller, yoga and fitness therapy expert. “So if you sit in a way that tips your pelvis back, or if you are constantly crossing and uncrossing your legs, you keep altering the pressures going into that pelvis.” What happens after this altered pressure? Side effects you wouldn’t traditionally think of, like bad breath, heartburn and indigestion. Changing the pressures on your stomach can alter the esophageal sphincter, which allows food to pass and digest correctly causing these unpleasant results. Tilting the pelvis back often results in a slouch where shoulders drop forward and the spine rounds. Consistently slouching forward can affect your ability to breathe and impact your mood. As a result of poor posture, one of the most common worksite injuries is back pain. Many times this stems from sitting for longer periods of time, repetitive movements or lifting heavy objects with incorrect posture and improper equipment. To prevent bad posture, use proper equipment such ergonomic chairs, proper fitting footwear and proper safety equipment such as a back brace. Frequent physical movement and stretching exercises can have a positive effect on your posture as well. When we stand as opposed to sit, we burn 20 percent more calories and strengthen our muscles, boost metabolism and increase bone density. And when we stretch, we lower the chance of posture related discomfort and injury. Take steps to improve your posture. Good posture while standing is a straight back, squared shoulders, chin up, chest out, stomach in. If you can draw a straight line from your earlobe through your shoulder, hip, knee to the middle of your ankle, then you’ve got it. Ashley Costa is the Community Health Director for the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization. She can be reached at 736-5985 or costaa@lvcho.org.