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Stand Up Straight

Your mother knew what she was saying when she told you to stand up straight. CBS News Health Contributor Dr. Jordan Metzl visited The Saturday Early Show with advice on how to improve your posture.

Here are Dr. Metzl's tips to help you maintain good posture no matter how what your age.

  • Check your child. Poor posture, as we see with "backpack syndrome," can begin in childhood. At your child's next appointment with the pediatrician, ask the doctor to do the scoliosis test. Steps can be taken to correct it.
  • Keep weight down. Extra weight, especially a spare tire, puts excess pressure on your back and weakens the stomach muscles.
  • Exercise regularly. If you exercise, you are more flexible and your muscles are stronger, which helps support your posture.
  • Buy proper bedding. Make sure your mattress is firm, which helps support your spine even while you sleep. At the same time, you want to make sure you don't buy a mattress that is too rigid.
  • Examine work space. Many of us spend our day behind a desk at a computer. So you need to make sure that your chair is high enough. Also, if you are someone with short legs, you may want to consider buying a footrest to help take pressure off the legs.
The following are Dr. Metzl's answers to frequently asked questions.

WHY IS GOOD POSTURE SO IMPORTANT?
If you have good posture, it means that your bones are properly aligned. This is necessary if you want your muscles, joints, and ligaments to work properly. If you have good posture, your internal organs are in the right position and can work effectively.

Bad posture can lead to serious health issues, including chronic back pain and depression. So if you think you have bad posture, get in touch with your doctor.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE BAD POSTURE?
There are many signs you may have bad posture. Some of the most common are when you have rounded shoulders and a rounded upper back. If your head juts forward, that's another sign. People with poor posture can also have an arched lower back and protruding backside. Simple back pain can also be a warning sign.

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WHAT DOES PROPER POSTURE LOOK LIKE?
If a person has proper posture, they will have three natural curves in the back. Look for the line between your shoulders to be level, not tilted. Your head should be held straight, again no tilting or turning to one side. Another sign of good posture is when the little bumps on your spine are in a straight line down the center of your back.

YOU SAY THAT SCOLIOSIS, OR CURVATURE OF THE SPINE, CAN CONTRIBUTE TO POOR POSTURE. HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE IT?
Scoliosis is most common in adolescent females. It's usually detected by either a doctor, coach or gym teacher who will see that the spine is curved. You can spot it by looking in the mirror and if you see that your spine is curved, you may have it. Also, when people with scoliosis bend over, the curve looks worse.

MANY PARENTS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE HEAVY BACKPACKS THEIR CHILDREN CARRY. HOW CAN THIS CONTRIBUTE TO POOR POSTURE?
I hear about this in my practice all the time, children carrying backpacks that are too heavy. It's commonly known as "backpack syndrome." You know it's too heavy if the child leans forward or has rounded shoulders while wearing one. But there are ways to avoid it. A bag should be no heavier than 10 percent of your child's body weight. For children under 10, the bag should be closer to five percent of their body weight. Also, encourage your child to wear both straps of the backpack.

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