Better posture

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The Straight and Narrow Plan
Slouching brings you down in more ways than you might think. Here's a plan for upright living.

Standing up straight is like drinking eight glasses of water a day: Nice if you can do it, but it's not as though slouching will kill you, right? You'd be surprised. In a review of more than 100 studies, scientists from UCLA found that poor posture is associated with breathing problems, falls, depression, and decreased quality of life, all of which shave years off life expectancy.

One of the biggest contributors to slumping is weak muscles in the abdomen and back. "Even people who exercise regularly can have poor posture," says Lesley Powell, director and founder of Movements Afoot, a Pilates wellness center in New York City. "But if you practice good posture, it will carry over to your workout."

Powell's graceful, powerful exercises borrow elements of Pilates, yoga, and dance to target your legs and core. Don't let their elegant appearance fool you, though: They'll quickly strengthen the muscles you need to achieve good alignment.

Hold each position for three to five seconds, resting a few seconds between moves. Then go through the whole series twice more for a total of three sets. As the moves get easier, try holding them longer.