Remember when your mum and dad told you to stand up straight? Often, we think that it is just so as we look good. Current research is showing a much deeper and long-term effect of poor posture. Here’s some of the things that your poor posture and lifestyle habits are doing to you.
The funny thing is, there was always a quick-fire way to stop mum and dad from harping on and on about ‘sit up straight’; or ‘stop slouching’. It was to do it. Now, with more and more technology pulling our body forward (into a flexion position), there are more and more long-term health & lifestyle effects. Sure, bad posture can make your muscles sore around the neck and back ache, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The top of a slippery slope to declining health. However, you can turn that around and stand tall.
- Decreases Our Lifespan
In a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Sports and Physical Therapy of June 2010 looked at how the mid back curve increases as we age, and as a result the health and lifestyle effects of this increased curvature. This increase in curve is what we would term a ‘rounded back’ leading to ‘rounded shoulders’. It is something that I am seeing continually at a younger and younger age due to the advent and the increased time spent on electronic devices.
Some of the effects of this include the inability to perform day to day tasks; poor balance; increase risk of falls and therefore fracture and broken bones; decreased quality of life; and decreased life expectancy. This is on top of a decrease in mobility of the neck and shoulder girdle and the lower back and hips leading to difficulty moving around.
- Poor Posture Can Lead to Depression
This may come as no surprise, however people who participated in a study from San Francisco University reported that when they were asked to slouch and walk this made them feel sad, lonely, isolated, and tired, whereas when they were asked to skip, this made them feel energetic, happy, and positive. What is interesting, though, is that the slouched walk appeared to have a larger negative impact on the subjects who were more depressed. There was a significant decrease in energy levels after the slouched walk among the people with the highest percentage of depression scores and no significant change for students in the lowest 20% of depression scores. For both groups, skipping significantly increased energy levels.
So, why does this matter? Depression is commonly associated with having less energy—and less energy can lead to more depressive thinking. It can be a vicious cycle. From the results of this study, the researchers concluded that energy level could increase or decrease depending on posture. The results indicate that the mind-body relationship goes both ways—the mind influences the body and the body influences the mind.
- Backs you up
When you slouch, inevitably your head goes forward. As this occurs you will affect a nerve called the Vagus Nerve, and it will not work effectively. The Vagus nerve acts to help counteract your adrenal system – your fight or flight system of the body. Upon measuring this system in the clinic using Heart Rate Variability, there is a huge imbalance in our community as to how the Vagus nerve is being turned on.
As the Vagus Nerve is affected and loses its effect upon our body, one of the effects is Gasteroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying…we become backed up and constipated. The Vagus nerve helps coordinate peristalsis, the contraction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestine, which creates wavelike movements that push food forward and waste out of the body.
The symptoms of delayed gastric emptying include: nausea, heartburn, stomach pains, spasms in the stomach, constipation, skin rashes such as eczema, and numerous inflammatory bowel disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, and weight gain.
- Increases risk of chronic lifestyle disease
A recent Australian study found that after the age of 25, every single hour of television—i.e., slouching on the couch—reduced the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. Plus, when English researchers cross-referenced sitting time with health outcomes in a different study, they found that those people who sat the most more than doubled their risk of developing diabetes and had a 147 % increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease, even if they did exercise.
- Poor Cognitive Function
Upright posture and mobility are associated with different cognitive processes. They show better memory of older adults with proper posture. This important study from 2016 provides evidence for a link between postural alignment and cognitive functioning in healthy older adults.
They state that a decline in mobility with aging is associated with a decline in overall quality of life. Posture refers to the way the muscles and skeletal bones are coordinated to maintain an upright orientation against gravity. Older adults have a tendency to carry their heads and necks forward relative to their torsos. This was associated with decreased cognitive function.
- Your Brain Knows No Difference…
between perceived and real. When you slouch, you place yourself into a ‘fight or flight’ (otherwise known as stress) posture. Your brain then thinks that you are under stress and will alter your physiology accordingly. This can lead to an increase in blood pressure, increase in cholesterol; can lead to depression and anxiety; will increase your blood sugars; can lead to a decrease in fertility; decrease your memory and retention as well as your ability to concentrate; and lead your immune system compromised.
- Stresses you out
A study from Harvard showed that when people who adopted powerful postures (open square shoulders and straight spines) had a 20% increase in testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol levels—but people who slouched had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. That translates into low self-confidence and high stress. And sitting slouched over can compound the problem.