May 1-7 is National Mental Health week. There have been numerous headlines lately on the topic of posture and depression, as a recent study demonstrated the correlation between our posture and our mood.
Does someone have poor posture because they are dealing with depression, or can the poor posture actually affect an individual’s mood? In a New Zealand study led by Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent, 61 adults diagnosed with mild to moderate depression were divided into 2 groups. One group had specific work done to improve their posture while the other group had “sham” work done, to test for a placebo response. The researchers found that the group which worked to improve their posture felt “more alert and enthusiastic, less fearful and had a higher self esteem after a stressful streak.” Studies suggest that, compared to sitting in a slumped position, sitting upright can make you feel more proud after a success, increase your persistence at an unsolvable task, and make you feel more confident in your thoughts. The group in the study with improved posture also felt lower fatigue than the “usual” posture group.
“Changing posture is a simple, highly acceptable and low risk intervention that could be applied either by itself or alongside other treatments,” the researchers wrote in their paper, published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry in March 2017.
Our posture impacts our Nervous System in many ways, as we have discussed in previous articles. It is important that we learn ways to improve our posture, as everyday life leads us to postural decline. Gravity, the physical stress of sitting at computers, looking at cell phones, carrying bags on one shoulder, etc. all take a toll on our ideal posture. Learn about how to improve your posture and your mental health with Network Spinal Analysis. Join us for our workshops during National Mental Health week. Tuesday, May 2 – Stress Management. Wednesday, May 3 – Depression & Anxiety.
As previously discussed in our last article, "Sitting is the New Smoking", there have been a number of studies recently that highlight the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle upon one's health. Prolonged time sitting was found to be associated with increased risk of mortality as well as a great number of serious diseases.
What can we do for our health to fight the deleterious effects of sitting? Many of us have jobs that require significant time at a computer. We spend time at home on-line or performing tasks that are normally done sitting down.
In most situations, with some creativity, one can create a standing work station. My daughter recently injured her back at the gym and found that sitting aggravated her condition. She was in the middle of studying for some final exams and had a lot of computer time facing her! We piled boxes on our counter, raising her lap top to a comfortable height for standing use and she was able to continue on.
There are a number of professional products one can purchase to modify or raise a computer desk. Here are some inexpensive suggestions of things you can try at home that we have shared with members of our practice:
1. Use counters or shelves in your home that are higher than your regular desk or table to raise your work station. Placing sturdy boxes on your table can raise a laptop to the correct height. To raise a desk top computer, you might need something more stable. A low coffee table or end table can be placed on top of a desk or table to raise a monitor and keyboard.
2. Place an object (a small box, block or phone book) on the floor that will allow you to raise one foot and give your low back a rest. If you're standing at a kitchen counter or sink, you may open the door in front of you and place one foot inside the cupboard. This is the concept behind the rail that was used on the side of a bar in old-time western saloons. That might have been the very first ergonomic invention to relieve standing stress.
3. Wear comfortable and supportive shoes without heels. Make sure you include your orthotics if you need them. If you pronate when you stand, wearing proper support will reduce strain on your feet, knees, hips and back.
4. If you have a hard concrete floor, consider using a rubber mat to stand on to minimize the stress on your body.
5. Allow yourself to move while working as much as possible. This maintains blood flow and stops muscles from tightening up. If appropriate, play music while you are working and dance along! You will be more energized and alert.
Try these suggestions to create your own standing work station this summer. See how good it can feel to get out of the chair!
There have been a number of studies recently that highlight the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle upon one's health. Sitting is described as the new smoking. The harm associated with prolonged sitting is so significant that it has been compared to the impact of man's most well known carcinogen, smoking. It seems smoking has become the new standard of risk- another recent study suggested that consumption of smoked meat is also the new smoking. I am not going to address the impact of bacon in this short article, but I would like to discuss the tremendous harm related to the amount of time spent sitting by the average person today. Most people don't realize just how many hours they spend sitting in their regular day. With time at work, driving, watching television and spending time on a home computer - the hours add up, and so does the impact to our posture and our health.
In his book, "Stand Taller, Live Longer", Dr. Steven Weiniger describes what he calls "sitting disease". Our postural muscles have gotten weaker as we spend vast amounts of time in chairs. A study, outlined in the Annals of Internal Medicine in January 2016, demonstrates that those who sit 8-12 hours a day have a 91% higher incidence of type 2 diabetes! You see, prolonged sitting leads to compression of our internal organs which can then lead to problems such as heart disease, and ultimately to higher mortality rates.
In a number of studies, greater sedentary time was found to be associated with increased risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, cancer incidence and type II diabetes. One particular study found that those who spent less than eight hours sitting time per day had a 14 percent lower risk of potentially preventable hospitalization.
What can we do to fight the deleterious effects of sitting on our health? There are a number of solutions to address the health challenges of our deteriorating posture, but they require active work on our part. In studies, sedentary time was associated with a 30 percent lower relative risk for all-cause mortality among those with higher levels of physical activity compared with those with lower levels of physical activity. This means that the negative outcomes associated with sedentary time generally decreased in magnitude among persons who participated in higher physical activity compared to lower levels. So we must be active to reduce impact of sitting on our health.
If you are not actively working to improve your posture, it is deteriorating! Your posture will affect your health, your alertness and productivity, and your appearance! Stay tuned for upcoming articles on "Creating Your Own Standing Work Station" and "Text Neck Syndrome Prevention", and sign up NOW for our free Posture Workshop on June 1 and learn about how you CAN improve your posture, at any age, and enjoy tremendous health benefits as a result!