Research has found a slumped posture can affect longevity. We looked at the study and the reasons behind why this happens and why it leads to a shorter lifespan.
Slumping forward is one of those things that tends to happen as we age. I’m sure you have seen older people walking along, looking down towards the ground as their back arches forward.
As we age our backs become stiffer, the discs become a little dehydrated and can shrink, and this is compounded by things like arthritis and osteoporosis which will really exaggerate the slump.
So how does that put us at risk of dying earlier?
Researchers tracked around 1,500 people for a few years and measured all sorts of parameters. They found that people who are more slumped than others performed worse in a number of physical tests, all of which have been linked to longevity. These tests included:
1. Risk of falling – this is important as people who fall suffer serious injuries to their head, back or hip. A fractured hip increases your chances of being admitted to a nursing home within 12 months. And falling can be especially dangerous for people who live on their own.
2. Ability to get out of a chair – this is important as if you find it difficult to get out of a chair you are more likely to fall. It demonstrates weakness in the important muscles of the thigh, as well as degeneration of the hip and knee joints.
3. Grip strength – this is one of the best predictors of longevity we have. As you slump forward, you can compress the nerves at the base of the neck, which run down to your hands, making your grip weaker and reducing your upper body strength.
4. Ability to walk with ease (ie is walking difficult for them?) – this is crucial to good health as walking is one of the best ways to maintain good cardiac / heart health as we age.
The researchers concluded that “hyperkyphotic (excessively slumped) posture was specifically associated with an increased rate of death due to atherosclerosis”. Maybe being slumped compresses the ribs and affects heart and lung function somehow? And this can affect blood flow and the health of the blood vessels, reducing the amount of oxygen you get to your brain and other vital organs.
How do we fix it?
One of the best things you can do for the upper back, to reduce this forward flexion, is FOAM ROLLING. You can start with laying on a rolled up towel if foam rolling is too much. Studies have shown that just a few minutes is enough to increase mobility in the upper back. Start with 3 minutes and try to build up to 5 minutes, and try to get this done a couple of times a day.
Some useful links
Video from Sanarte Wellness on how to use a foam roller properly and safely – https://pages.sanartewellness.com/roller-programs/
Carers’ Circle article on staying active at home – https://carerscircle.com.au/2020/04/07/for-older-people-and-those-with-chronic-health-conditions-staying-active-at-home-is-extra-important-heres-how/
Study finding the answer to can a slumped posture affect longevity? It predicts mortality in older people – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15450042/?fbclid=IwAR2LUJpIrPUG5280AHc3nUHDzWCtRBqFp5gRW_Y6_OsOQGfXhpYh-eShodw
Study on how slumping predicts mortality in older people – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15972617/?i=2&from=/15450042/related
Study on the link between slumping and poor physical ability in older people – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17595423/?i=3&from=/15450042/related
Study on the link between slumping and risk of fracture in older people https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16491290/?i=4&from=/15450042/related