Health

‘Sitting is the new smoking’ — 60% of Americans suffer from Silicon Valley Syndrome

Image Credit: LumoBack

You are achy, your back hurts, you have trouble sleeping, and your head is pounding — you could have Silicon Valley syndrome.

“Personal posture trainer” startup LumoBack released the results of a study today that examined “Silicon Valley Syndrome,” the physical and mental health symptoms that arise from spending WAY too much time sitting in front of a computer screen.

The results are shocking: 60 percent of participants reported that they have experienced adverse health effects as a result of technology. Of course, this “syndrome” extends outside of Silicon Valley, to anyone with a computer-centric job.

“I love technology as much as anyone — I am a tech company founder, after all,” CEO Monisha Perkash said to VentureBeat. “While our computers and devices can help us feel more productive, this study shows that more people are using technology in ways that will devolve our bodies than those that are using it healthfully. This abuse of technology could very well set us up for a series of health pandemics in the not-so-far-off future.”

Perkash said that Lumoback’s goal is use technology in a way that helps, rather than destroys, our body.

The company’s wearable sensor monitors your posture and coaches you to improve throughout the day. The sensor vibrates when you slouch and tracks your daily activity, like steps taken, time spent sitting, and calories burned, to make recommendations.

However Perkash and cofounders Charles  Wang, M.D., and Andrew Wang wanted to dig deeper and find out who is experiencing SVS, what specific ailments they are experiencing, and what they are doing to address it.

Eye strain is the most common ailment, followed by back back pain, neck pain, headaches, wrist pain, carpal tunnel, and insomnia.

People on the West Coast are significantly more likely than the rest of the country to develop SVS.

Women are also more likely than men to indicate symptoms from technology use, and are more likely to try and resolve their symptoms by taking a pill.

Young Americans are three times as likely as older Americans to cut back on their use of gadgets when they start getting those aches and pains. In contrast, older Americans were twice as likely to take prescription medications to alleviate their symptoms.

The most common measures to combat SVS are posture correction, stretching, medication, taking breaks, exercise, and seeing a doctor (in that order).

Back pain is a widespread and pervasive problem. About 80 percent of Americans experience significant back pain sometime in their lives and that pain costs more than $50 billion per year. It’s a leading cause of missed work days, disability claims, and visits to the doctor, outnumbered only by the common cold.

LumoBack found that the average American spends more than three-quarters of their workday sitting.

We sit, we slouch, we type, we strain our eyes and necks, and while we may be writing prolific (and eloquent, I might add) articles, building powerful software, coordinating marketing campaigns, chatting on Facebook, responding to email, and generally living life in the always-on Internet era, we are also hurting our bodies.

Human beings were not meant to sit all day long, and the average computer worker could easily spend 48,360 hours sitting at work over a 30-year career.

LumoBack describes sitting as “the new smoking.” People who spend the most time sitting increase their risk or diabetes, cardiovascular events, and death. Granted, the company makes a product that aims to help people overcome their posture problems, so it is in their interest to emphasize the health risks, but legitimate medical organizations (like the Mayo Clinic and the University of South Carolina) have also warned against living life primarily on your butt.

Now I am not suggesting we all quit our computer jobs to become bike messengers, but LumoBack does have a few suggestions.

To start, why not take a post-article-read stretch break. I will as soon as I hit publish.

LumoBack polled 2,019 adults for this survey. The company is backed by $6.3 million in venture capital from Innovation Endeavors and Madrona Venture Group.

Check out this infographic:

lumoback infrographic


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