It’s impossible to avoid technology in daily life, and there’s no doubt that it has made much of life more manageable. Yet, some aspects of it can affect your body in potentially negative ways. To treat them, it’s essential to learn about how it causes them.
These are the effects of technology on your physical health and what you can do about them.
1. Poor Posture
According to an article by Rothman Orthopaedics, 65 million Americans reported back pain episodes due to their poor posture while working on computers in 2019. Meanwhile, the American Chiropractic Association reports that 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
That should be no surprise when people spend much of their day working on computers in offices, scrolling on their smartphones, or binge-watching their favorite shows. Unless you have an ergonomic setup to perform such activities—which is rarely the case, even in offices—you may face posture problems.
While using your phone or working on your computer, your head is often angled downward with shoulders hunched, elbows making an acute or obtuse angle with the front of your body, and wrists bent up or down. When you hold yourself in this position for long hours or at regular intervals daily, it causes posture problems that lead to muscular pain.
How to Improve Your Posture
Reduce your screen time by cutting your use of smartphones, tablets, gaming, and more. You can also try using apps to improve your posture to help reduce back and neck pain. Finally, YouTube has some great videos available on the topic:
- How to Correct Your Posture: 5 Home Exercises to Improve Posture (YouTube)
- Improve Posture With 5 Easy Exercises (YouTube)
- 5 Best Ways to Improve Your Posture (YouTube)
However, consider consulting with your doctor before introducing any heavier exercises.
2. Muscular Pain
Poor posture has a huge role in causing muscular pain. The continuous forward or backward bending of the neck can cause headaches, shoulder stiffness, neck pain, and soreness—these symptoms are sometimes called “tech neck”.
It happens mainly due to the distribution of the head’s weight at different angles. According to Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, when your head is in a neutral position, it puts no more than 10–12 pounds of stress on your neck. But when it’s tilted, the muscles have to work harder to support as much as 27 pounds at 15 degrees or 60 pounds at 60 degrees.
What to Do About Muscular Pain
Begin by investing in an ergonomic office setup to maintain the right posture. For instance, when you work in your office, your computer screen should be at or slightly below your eye level, according to Grand Valley State University.
Furthermore, PhysioMed’s guide to Correct Sitting Posture suggests that your elbows should make an angle of about 90 degrees with the keyboard, and your legs and knees should also be at a right angle. Additionally, there should be lumbar support for your back, and your feet should be flat on the ground or the footrest, according to the Princeton University’s Computer Workstations and Ergonomics.
Besides that, use apps to schedule frequent breaks or stand up whenever you can after spending a good amount of time in the same sitting position.
3. Eye Strain
According to the National Center for Health Research, two out of three Americans complain about experiencing symptoms of eyestrain due to increased screen time. These strains can directly affect your productivity, causing you to make more mistakes in your work and take more breaks.
Moreover, you may also get dry eyes, which puts an extra burden on the muscles meant for focusing. Dr. Joshua L. Dunaief told NBC News, “We don’t blink as much when using screens because the blink response is suppressed. So we don’t spread tears across our eyes, and they wind up drying out.”
It’s mainly due to activities like looking at computer screens for long periods, scrolling through social media, binge-watching shows, and more.
How to Reduce Eye Strain
According to an article by WebMD, keep your screen about 20–30 inches from yourself and follow the 20-20-20 rule: look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes of working on your computer. Then, make sure that the lighting of your room isn’t too bright or dim. These measures can help you reduce your eyes strain.
4. Sleep Deprivation
According to Sleep Health Foundation, another effect of technology on your physical health is sleep deprivation. This is associated with other problems, like lower productivity, depression, lack of energy, and poor performance at work.
Besides any difficulty falling asleep, your overall sleep quality may also be compromised by using your phone at night, watching something that requires alertness, or waking up due to the sound of notifications.
How to Get Better Sleep
There are various things you can do to ensure quality sleep at night without getting distracted by technology. For instance, dim your lights at least one hour before going to bed. Make sure that your phone is in a different room so that, when you feel the urge to use it, you’ll be less inclined to reach for it.
However, if you really need to keep your phone with you for some reason, put it on do not disturb mode and use Android’s Digital Wellbeing Dashboard or Sleep Mode on iOS to limit distractions. Or download an app like Stay Focused, which can help you to block notifications and reduce the use of certain apps. You can also consider reading about the other tools to help you with a good night’s sleep.
5. Reduced Physical Activity
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. However, a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that the usage of social media and increased sedentary behavior greatly reduce the amount of daily exercise people do.
Moreover, according to research in Healthcare (Basel), the usage of technology in children is associated with reduced physical activities, obesity, and other health issues.
How to Increase Physical Activity to Avoid Health Problems
Technology may be the cause of your sedentary behavior and reduced physical activities, but it can also be used to fix them. Persuasive technology—tools or apps to remind you to work out or block the usage of your certain devices—and playing active video games may help you increase physical activity, according to a report by Lifespan.
Promoting activity and counting the number of steps you’ve taken throughout the day are excellent reasons you should get a smartwatch. These devices can motivate you to move more than you do, as you’ll see how little you might currently be moving in your typical day.
Apart from that, you can also try virtual exercise partners or group exercises or use social media to hold yourself accountable for your daily workouts.
Is Technology Really to Blame for Causing Physical Health Problems?
When people come to depend too much on things meant to make life easier, they’re bound to see side effects. The same is true for personal devices. Hence, you should make sure that you use your devices only when they’re needed and learn how to leverage them properly so that they’re only benefiting you, not hurting you.