PE scholar develops simple raised arm walking exercise to improve smartphone addicts’ health

2016-01-05
 Dr Lobo Louie's research finds that 98% of smartphone users adopt an inappropriate posture which may cause different levels of spinal displacement. HKBU team demonstrates simple stretching exercises that can relieve muscle tension common to smartphone or tablet users

Inappropriate posture is adopted by 98% of smartphone users when using their phone which may cause different levels of spinal displacement, but a simple-step raised arm walking exercise may help improve the problem, according to a research conducted by Dr Lobo Louie, Associate Professor of the Department of Physical Education of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) that was released today.
 
Acknowledging the ubiquity of smartphones and their effect on people’s health, Dr Louie and his team have conducted a study entitled “Raised Arm Walking Exercise Programme for Smartphone Addicts”. The study observed the posture of 4,621 smartphone users and found that 98% of them adopt an inappropriate posture. To ease the problem, the team designed a raised arm walking exercise and found that many participants have made noticeable improvements to their health after taking part in the exercise programme.
 
From October to December 2015, with support from HKBU 60th anniversary health promotion funding, the team conducted an observation-based posture assessment of people using smartphones when standing or sitting and holding the phone with left hand, right hand or both hands in various public areas, including MTR platforms and carriages as well as restaurants. They noted that only 2% of observed individuals maintained good posture when using a smartphone while most users’ degree of neck tilt was found to be over 30 degrees, with higher degrees of neck tilt found in people who were sitting down and holding the smartphone with both hands.
 
Dr Louie, quoting a US research result, said that an average human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. As the head tilts forward the forces on the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees. Tilting the head for a prolonged period may cause different levels of displacement of the spine. 
 
To help improve the situation, the team designed a raised arm walking exercise that aims to strengthen muscle, improve equilibrium, enhance cardiovascular function and improve joint flexibility – areas that typically need improvement in people who use smartphones or tablets for prolonged periods.  
 
The team invited 98 volunteers to take part in a 30-minute raised arm walking exercise twice a week for five weeks. Analysis of pre-assessment and post-assessment data showed that many participants have made improvements to their health, such as better balance control, increased shoulder strength, less muscle fatigue in the neck, back and leg areas, and improved standing posture, after completing the five-week exercise programme. Greater flexibility and a decrease in waist and hip circumference were found more significantly among female participants while lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate and better cardiovascular endurance were found among male participants.   
 
Dr Louie said: “Raising our arms when walking can improve health because it can build muscle strength and provides more support to hold the smartphones. In addition, this type of stretching exercises can help to relieve muscle tension.” To relieve adverse health effects, he suggests people to avoid prolonged usage of smartphones or tablets, and to do enough stretching exercises and get sufficient rest.
 
“HKBU is committed to promoting healthier lifestyles in the community. We plan to liaise with organisations such as MTR and shopping malls to create designated areas for citizens to do raised arm walking exercise conveniently and without extra expense,” Dr Louie added.