Why Your Lifestyle Choices Could be Affecting Your Health14 Aug 2019

The development of technology throughout the 21st century has brought with it many positives and changed the world beyond measure.

But could it all be having negative effects on our health?

Gen Z may be the primary victims of this. With 10-year olds getting mobile phones, kids as young as 3 playing on iPads, and teenagers never looking up from their Instagram feed, the question is constantly being raised about how it is going to affect them, now and in the future.

Many mental and physical health issues are caused by nurture and not nature. Bad posture, vision problems and neck strain as well as depression, comparison and anxiety can all be caused by the use of technology.

Muscle and posture

Medical professionals are becoming increasingly concerned about the muscle health and posture of young people. As the effects of ‘text neck’ become more apparent, what will it take for people to start taking this issue seriously and changing their technology habits?

The term ‘text neck’, evolved as a way to describe the ever-curving necks of generations that spend too much of their time looking down at their mobile phone, iPad or laptop. This involves a slow but damaging build-up of pressure to the head, neck and back, leading to potential life-long effects.

“Typically people crane their neck forward 45 degrees when sending text messages. This places a weight of almost 22kg on the spine, cervical ligaments and other muscles – five times the pressure considered normal, according to a Surgical Technology International study. Over the course of a year, this amounts to an additional 1,000 to 1,400 hours of pressure on the average smartphone user’s spine.”

Pablo Robles, South China Morning Post

The reason people may not be taking much notice could be down to the fact that immediate negative effects are subtle. It may only start out with a slight neck ache if you have spent a significant amount of time looking down at your phone in one sitting, however, this could eventually lead to serious problems such as headaches, neurological issues and even heart disease.

Although this would only occur over several years of sticking to the same habits, the damage is pretty tough to reverse so it is wholly advisable to make changes now OR seek the advice and treatment of a physiotherapist if you think it could already be causing you damage.

Physical inactivity

The burden of staring at your smartphone

From sitting at your desk all day on a computer to scrolling through your phone whilst sat on the sofa in the evenings…use of technology significantly reduces the level of physical activity we are achieving each day. Although you may think it’s okay as you went to the gym for an hour this morning or you walked your dog across the park yesterday, this doesn’t mean that the negative affects of this type of constant behaviour won’t come back to bite you.

Physical inactivity has been named as the second highest cause of preventable death after smoking, and the worry is only increasing when we think of young children growing up in this day and age.

Mental health

Social media has a huge impact on mental health. Although it may not always be the direct source of these issues, comparison, fear of missing out and jealousy all fuel further issues for people who are already struggling.

We also have to remember that what is shown on social media is only a small, highlight snippet of that person’s life and doesn’t necessarily mean that they are entirely happy.

70% of respondents check their smartphone within an hour of getting up;

56% check their phone within an hour of going to bed;

48% check over the weekend, including Friday and Saturday nights;

51% check continuously while on holiday;

44% said they would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and could not replace it for a week.

 Pablo Robles, South China Morning Post

Make a change

Although a lot of this may sound very serious and scary (which it certainly is), it isn’t too late to make a change. There are many ways to improve your physical and mental health and one of those could be changing your lifestyle slightly, taking time out of the digital world and focusing on improving yourself.

Suggested solutions for improving your relationship with technology are fairly simple and easy to stick to once you have broken bad habits.

  • Take a break

Stepping away from your desk for 10mins, putting your phone down whilst you are eating dinner…these are small steps you can begin to take and slowly increase your time being digital-free.

  • Ask yourself why

Why are you scrolling endlessly? Why are you posting that picture?

Think about what positives these things are really bringing to your life and focus on your motivations for doing so.

  • Look up

Take in the world around you, go outside, walk instead of get the tube…positive little changes can make a huge difference on your mental health and up your physical activity for the day. Also, actually holding your phone higher and looking up when using it can improve this bad habit.

  • Exercises

There are many exercises and stretches you can do yourself at home to improve the negative effects of ‘text neck’. Small movements in the neck, back, head and arms can all manipulate the correct muscles and begin reversing some of the damage caused.

  • Get some sleep

Switching off from all technology an hour or two before you go to sleep will enable you to easily drift off without as much disruption, worry and unwanted stimulation.

Man texting on mobile

Making a change to your physical and mental health will have so many benefits and can prevent you from experiencing further issues in the future. If you are worried about your posture or think you could be suffering from neck and back strain as a result of your lifestyle, get in touch with Harpenden Physiotherapy. We are highly trained in treating back pain, showing positive results and an improvement on your overall health.

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