Taking care of our health is about more than just what we eat or how often we exercise. It means taking a closer look at our everyday, seemingly insignificant habits that have a real impact on our health. For example: Do you check emails, social media, or look at your phone anywhere between 2-4 hours a day? Then listen up!
58 percent of Americans who own smartphones are at risk of developing neck and spinal problems as a result of overuse of their mobile devices. It’s a phenomenon called “text neck”.
An article in the Washington Post details this eye-opening phenomena:
“The average head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. When we bend our necks forward 60 degrees, as we do to use our phones, the effective stress on our neck increases to 60 pounds — the weight of about five gallons of paint.”
The Washington Post says that kind of pressure is like having an 8 year old sitting on your neck! Extended periods of time looking down leads to stress on the head and neck, in some cases causing what is known as a “Dowager’s Hump” which is the deterioration of the vertebral support in the spine. It’s typically only seen in the elderly who suffer from osteoporosis but is showing up in young people at an alarming rate.
So what can we do to prevent it? Awareness of our posture throughout the day is the first step!
Chin up to prevent poor posture and to counteract hunchback.
Standing upright with abdominal muscles engaged and keeping one’s head level properly supports the spine. When our heads are tilted forward at anywhere from a 15 to 60 degree bend, we start to put an unnatural load on the cervical spine. If you work at a computer all day, think about requesting a standup desk from your employer to counteract the pressure on your neck. For good posture, remember that your eyes should be hitting the center of the computer monitor without causing the neck to pitch at an upward or downward angle.
Poor posture reduces lung capacity by as much as 30 percent.
Correcting your posture while looking at your mobile device might save your back, but it’s also good news for your brain and lungs! It’s estimated that the lungs are able to intake 30 percent more oxygen when posture is correct than when we’ve let our shoulders slouch and our necks drop forward into a hunched position. Remember that herniated disks, pinched nerves and muscle strain are also attributed to too much time looking down. Try bringing the phone to eye level in front of your face instead of pitching your neck downward to see it.
Better posture will improve your mood and confidence.
Slouching is a telltale sign of insecurity. It communicates disinterest and in some cases, depression. This OpEd piece for the New York Times gives us more incentives to start working on our posture now:
“When we’re sad, we slouch. We also slouch when we feel scared or powerless. Studies have shown that people with clinical depression adopt a posture that eerily resembles the iHunch.”
Good posture is about more than just keeping up appearances. It actually helps to boost your mood by giving your body cues to stay alert. When we’re sitting or standing upright, we are less likely to feel tired or sad, and our brain function increases thanks to greater oxygen perfusion in the lungs.
Strengthening your core supports your spinal cord and promotes standing upright.
Yoga is a popular core-toning form of exercise that enhances mobility and focuses on the muscles that support the head, neck and spine. Focus on good posture is crucial in yoga and helps to identify problem areas where we might be experiencing tension or carrying stress. Try to find a weekly form of exercise that reinforces the spine by focusing on strengthening abdominal and back muscles.
Maintaining correct posture means you’re observant of people around you!
We spend enough time, an estimated 700 to 1,400 hours per year putting stress on our spines by looking down at mobile devices. Here’s a good reason to start looking up on your way to and from the car, in the grocery store or in the airport:
You might recognize someone you know.
You might see an opportunity to help a stranger.
You might notice something beautiful that you would’ve missed if you were too busy.
Making eye contact is an essential form of respect we give to others, but we can’t do it while looking down! We shouldn’t let digital distractions rule our lives. Let’s start this week by looking up more, walking a little taller and putting our phone in our pocket for better health and longevity.