The True Cost of Bad Posture
Bad posture often starts with too much time on our iPhones and social media, although it can also happen due to an injury or hereditary issue.
Those are a component of “screen time” - the time we spend in front of computers, phones, TVs, and so on.
Just check out the math on a recent study that measured how much time we are spending looking at screens.
It found the average American spend 6 hours and 43 minutes on a screen.
If you average a 16-hour waking day, those 6 hours and 43 minutes are 42% of your day! Six hours and 43 minutes converted to minutes is 403 minutes, multiplied by 365 days of the year is 147,095 minutes, converted to days is 102 days. 102 multiplied by the average US life expectancy, 78 years, is 7,956 days in a lifetime.
Assuming the average American gets eight hours of beauty rest a night, that means they spend six hours and 43 minutes a day looking at a screen, or 7,956 days of their life.
It’s even worse in teenager: A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that young people 8-18 years old spend in excess of seven-and-a-half hours a day using some form of mobile media. As a result, this younger demographic struggle even more with forward head posture (FHP).
Bad posture creates health risks in everyone. It differs on where it puts the greatest strain on your unique body.
There is no privilege associated with posture. You can work on your posture without spending any money at all… you can do it at any time in any place!
I’m going to make a case for why you really need to prioritize:
1. BAD POSTURE AFFECTS YOUR BREATHING
There are two main ways of breathing: using your diaphragm to perform “belly breathing” or using the muscles around your neck to breathe from your chest. Another way to look at it is “horizontal breathing” versus “vertical breathing.”
Upright posture is needed for horizontal, “belly breathing.” When you are slouching or your head is forward, this compresses the space your lungs can fill and forces a shortened breath.
Over time, this creates a habit where your body recruits the secondary muscles in your neck and collarbones, and not the diaphragm, and robs your body of vital oxygen. It also keeps you from breathing out as much of the carbon dioxide and other chemicals from your body.
BAD POSTURE RAISES YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
Some research indicates that bad posture affects blood pressure. There’s no exact reason why know … yet… but scientists think it could be related to pressure in your neck muscles and constriction that affcts blood supply to the brain.
BAD POSTURE STRESSES YOUR HEART
A study* published by the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 followed more than 4,000 men for 20 years. Researchers assessed and monitored each subject’s posture and evaluated health risks in relationship with poor posture.
The men who experienced the greatest posture deviations and height loss over the 20 year period experienced a 64% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.
BAD POSTURE SLOWS DIGESTION
Slouched posture after a meal can trigger heartburn caused by acid reflux (when stomach acid squirts back up into the esophagus). Plus some research suggests that your foods’ journey through the intestines slows down when you slouch.
BAD POSTURE AFFECTS YOUR ENERGY LEVEL:
Poor posture can negatively affect your energy level. It creates imbalances that add tension and compression to parts of your body that weren't meant to bear that weight - especially your neck when you look at how heavy the human head!
BAD POSTURE AFFECTS YOUR MOOD
Research suggests poor posture can negatively affect your mood. For example, a study published in March 2017 in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that "adopting an upright posture may increase positive affect, reduce fatigue and decrease self-focus" in people with mild to moderate depression.
BAD POSTURE CAUSES PAIN
Long-term forward neck posture leads to "long-term muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves." (Mayo Clinic Health Letter, March 2000), and that’s the perfect recipe for a lot of unwanted pain, especially chronic neck and upper back pain. But it also can contribute to back and shoulder pain and more.
This pain is especially triggers by the sheer weight of your head. For every inch the head is forward, the weight of your head (which is already 8-12 pounds!) increases on the spine by around 10 pounds. (Kapandji, Physiology of the Joints, Volume 3)
BAD POSTURE STRETCHES YOUR BRAIN STEM AND DAMAGES YOUR BRAIN
Um, I think you can tell just by reading those words that it’s not good! Ouch! “Loss of the cervical curve stretches the spinal cord 5-7 cm and causes disease." (Dr. Alf Breig, neurosurgeon and Nobel Prize recipient).
According to another Nobel Prize recipient for brain research, Dr. Roger Sperry, "90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” Think about that! Only 10 percent of your brain’s function goes to everything else. When you have bad posture, your brain has to rob energy from that 10% to adjust to abnormal gravity/posture relationships and processing.
Those are just a few of the many ways your health will be affected by bad posture. It’s worth paying attention to with simple stretching and strengthening exercises.