We now have access to all of the world’s information at our fingertips, but has it come at a cost? Confucius once said, “All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.” Well, the bad thing in this case is our posture. I bet this is what Confucius was referring to when he said this, while sitting stooped over his writing desk. There seems to be an inverse relationship between our obsession with gadgets and our posture. For women, wearing high heels can also have lifelong consequences in body imbalance and permanent postural changes, or so I am told. This is a cause for concern since bad posture isn’t just unattractive, but also leads to major health problems:
1. Difficulty Breathing: Forward Head Posture (FHP) is characterized by the displacement of the head over the the shoulders causing a breakdown of the musculoskeletal system throughout the spine. The head in forward posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the spine. Studies have shown that people with FHP have difficulty breathing since they are limiting the capacity of their lungs by adding the extra weight to their chest. Not breathing correctly can cause many imbalances to your system including higher blood pressure, stress, and anxiety.
2. Muscle Pain: If you are experiencing neck, shoulder, or back pains then chances are you many need to recalibrate your posture. FHP will cause your upper back muscles to continuously overwork to counterbalance the pull of gravity due to your head being tilted forward. This may eventually cause permanent change, rounding your back and hunching your shoulders. Remaining in this posture for prolonged periods of time puts you at risk to neck and shoulder problems. It’s important to try to keep your body properly aligned so that your bones support your weight as opposed to your muscles.
3. Fatigue: As if you didn’t have enough on your plate already, your poor posture can make you feel more tired. Restricted oxygen intake from FHP will make your feel fatigued since your body is overworking itself. Also, your muscles are having to support all of that extra weight.
4. Psychology: Remember that your posture is worth a thousand words. Even if it’s not true, poor posture automatically tells people that you lack confidence. In what’s become a landmark TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy showed that assuming a confident posture for just two minutes can increase testosterone levels–effectively making you feel confident, even if you didn’t before. So if you want that promotion or raise, don’t slouch! On the other hand, if what you seek is a surge of creativity, go ahead and lie down. A recent study in Australia showed that reclining has the effect of boosting creativity. Reclining also can tame anger–which makes sense, since one of the most basic reactions to anger is lying down. (Ever tried a shouting match while both people are lying down? Not happening). Both upright and supine positions of course give your body a big break from slouching.
How to fix it: If you think you might be one of 66-90% of the population affected by FHP, try consciously fixing your posture. You can also reap benefits from yoga, especially if you try posture-focused discipline like Iyenger. Lastly, try running! It’s the best method for improving posture since it naturally promotes straighter spine. (You can’t run with a bent spine–try it!)
Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr