Posture is important for your health and it is right up there with eating right, exercising and a good night's sleep. Why? Because poor posture can cause back, neck and shoulder pain, muscle weakness, breathing problems and lethargy. There are also cosmetic issues with bad posture making people look unconfident and their belly larger. People develop poor posture overtime and in our society with lounging in front of the television and hours in front of the computer, these bad habits are continually reinforced.

Testing for Bad Posture

It can actually be a little tricky to know whether you have poor posture or not. You may have bad habits and not even know that you have them due to having them for such a long time. Here are some tests to determine whether you need to start looking at correcting your posture.

The Wall Test - in this test you stand with head against a wall, your buttocks touching the wall and your heels six inches away from the base. Check the space between your lower back, your neck and the wall. If the gap is larger than two inches at the lower back and neck then you may need to speak to a professional about your posture. Failing this tests means that you lack the natural curves in your spine.

The Mirror Test - while standing naked directly looking at a mirror, visually check that: your head is straight and not titled; you have equal spaces between your arms and side; your hips are level and your ankles straight. Next, standing to the side, see if your head isn't too far forward or back; your stomach is flat; and that there is a slight curve in your lower back. It is often a good idea to take a photograph from a book on the Alexander Technique or Pilates that demonstrates good posture and compare it to your reflection in the mirror.

The Muscle Test - rub the muscles of your shoulders, neck and chest. Are they tight, tender or sensitive to your touch? If so, they maybe taking the strain of bad posture.

Fixing Your Posture

Here are some tips to correct bad posture:

- Lose weight. Excess fat can cause your centre of weight to shift, causing the rest of your body to compensate. Losing weight can help you regain the correct posture.

- Use a posture corrective brace. These braces can assist you to learn what good posture is.

- Use back support belts. Back injuries and pain can cause you to unconsciously compensate in order to avoid the pain. A back support belt can help your body to get back quicker and help you relearn good posture.