LILIHA, Hawaii - You've probably heard your mom tell you to stand up straight. She was right. Good posture helps your body function better, no matter what age. We learn in this Aging Well why seniors can really benefit from good posture.

REHAB Hospital of the Pacific physical therapist Kari Oki says as people age, years or decades of slouching can take a toll. "Since all your vital organs are here- lungs, heart, stomach, digestive system- slowly, you lose that volume," she says as she exaggerates a slouched position. 

If you have less space in your torso, you're compressing all your organs. Take your lungs, for instance. Oki says it puts people at greater risk for lung disease - or can exacerbate existing disease - because "all those muscles tend to shorten up because you're chronically in this position, then they can no longer work at their optimal length to contract and give you full breath."

The same happens to your stomach, so you don't digest the food properly. And it affects your heart. "You could make it more difficult for your blood to flow optimally back to your heart, and your heart drives blood to every other place in your body," she says.

Oki says it increases your chances of disease in those areas, simply because your organs aren't working at their best. But a very real risk she's concerned about is falling. She is sitting, leaning forward so far, her head is over her knees. "If you have poor posture and chronically are here, making your mass fall in front of the base of support [the feet], then the force is going to tend to be there [pointing forward]." Oki makes her point by standing up and lurching forward, nearly falling. 

Therapists say most of us walk around or sit around with bad posture, and desk work is a big culprit. So, when you are sitting at the desk, make sure to maintain good posture and every 15 or 20 minutes, just get up and walk away to take a break. 

Oki then demonstrates how you should be standing. "In optimal posture, you want to see the ear line up with the shoulder, the shoulder with the hip, then the malleolus of the ankle."

Small adjustments you can make, that could have a big impact on your overall health.

REHAB Hospital of the Pacific periodically offers free, public events and screenings on posture and other health issues. To learn more, visit rehabhospital.org.