Texting and Lower Life Expectancy
Can texting lower life expectancy? Possibly, and here’s why. We can live 3-4 weeks without food, 3-4 days without water, but only 4 minutes without oxygen. From that we can probably conclude that oxygen is the most important “nutrient”. Excessive texting may interfere with lung function and thus oxygen delivery. How is that?
One of the main functions of the lungs is to take oxygen from the air and deliver to the rest of the body through the bloodstream. The more oxygen you can take in through the lungs the more oxygen you can deliver to the body. Not surprising then is the fact that lung volume is a very good predictor of longevity (maybe even the best predictor according to the Framingham Heart Study). So anything that lowers lung volume has the potential to affect health and longevity. Excessive texting affects posture and poor posture in turn affects lung function/volume.
We normally lose 9% to 27% of our lung function each decade and by age 80 we typically have lost 60% of our lung capacity or volume.
In the elderly there already exists a link between pulmonary and cardiovascular disease and poor posture – mainly a forward leaning posture and increase kyphosis of the thoracic spine (think little old lady with a hunch back). It turns out that elderly with an increase kyphosis of the thoracic spine have a 1.44 times greater risk of mortality than those who do not. The increased risk of mortality from excessive kyphosis is similar to having a BMI greater than 30. So, it’s possible that excessive texting – enough to lead to poor posture may be as unhealthy for us as being overweight – to put it all in perspective.
Texting leads to rounding of the shoulders and that brings the head forward and also rounds the thoracic spine (we’ve discussed texting in a lighter context in this article). The changes at the thoracic spine prevent full expansion of the lungs because of restricted movement of the ribs and spine. Individuals with severe scoliosis many times have lower lung volumes for similar reasons.
How to Maintain Good Posture
Having practiced office based orthopedics for 20 years I have found the easiest way to explain how to obtain good posture is to simply to do things as tall as possible. Sit tall, stand tall, and walk tall. To do that you have to maintain the lordosis (curve opposite direction of kyphosis of thoracic spine) in your lumbar spine which is challenging to do while sitting. And, lengthen the neck as if it is slightly being pulled upward towards the sky.
If you do both you will notice that the shoulders fall back. The head goes where the shoulders go. If the shoulders are rounded forward as in texting (see photo above) the head will go forward straining the neck. If, however, the shoulders fall back the head can then be centered over the shoulders and not in front of them. The chest comes up and out some, too, maximizing lung volume. Doing all of this puts less stress on the entire spine. Also, you should notice when you walk that your arms naturally swing like pendulums hanging from the shoulders.
There is something more attractive about people who have very good posture. Such individuals display an air of confidence as well.
So work on your posture. If you must text or sit at a computer screen most of the day take some time each day to do perform the opposite movements (like lay on ground belly down propped on your elbows, or stand up and arch backwards at the waist).
In addition to improving your lung function you will look more attractive and look more confident and maybe add a few more productive years to your life – all simply by improving your posture.