Sitting for extended periods is uncomfortable, unnatural, and detrimental to your health. The common ailments from being a slouch are tight hips, weaker leg muscles, and an inflexible spine, which puts you at a greater risk of a herniated disk.

Less apparent complications caused by inactivity range from heart disease and inferior brain functionality to a higher mortality rate. But fear not: Here is how to remedy the Quasimodo look and straighten up.

The problem

As a result of our sit-happy culture, most of us have excessive forward flexion of the spine, which has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. A 14-year study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at 53,440 men and 69,776 women and their hours spent sitting per day. 

Those who sat for more than six hours a day had a higher rate of cardiovascular disease than those who sat for less than three hours a day. Also, a forward slouch means you have weaker back muscles—and your back is important for big lifts like the bench press, deadlift, and front squat. So your ability in the gym will suffer.

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The Cause

A sedentary lifestyle leads to a vicious, Fat Bastard–like cycle: You slouch because you’re inactive, and you’re inactive because you slouch.

“Many people refuse to add hinge patterns—like kettlebell swings and deadlifts—to their routines for fear of back pain,” says Mike Alteri, general manager of Orangetheory Fitness in Albany, NY. “But the inactivity is actually causing more pain and worse posture.”

The Fix

Three words: Stand and extend. We spend most of our days seated and slouched forward. So while it seems rudimentary, simply standing and stretching your back muscles can help counteract your new normal position.

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In the office, a standing desk can be of help. And in the gym, Alteri suggests using big compound movements like squatting and deadlifting. “They are tremendous options to help remedy that flexed-forward stance,” he says.

How to Sit (Up)Right

  • Relax your shoulders, and retract your shoulder blades.
  • Keep your elbows tucked in at your sides, since leaving them out will cause your back to round forward.
  • Support your lower back. Try rolling up a beach towel and wedging it between your lower back and the back of your chair.
  • Keep your head upright to promote optimal spine alignment.
  • Sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor for a stronger base.