Today’s Headlines: Happy Walking, Gut Bacteria and Texting Pain

Walking like a happy person can make you happy. The way you walk may not seem to reflect how you’re feeling, but it turns out your strike says a lot about your mood. “When people are happy, they tend to walk faster and more upright, swing their arms and move up and down more, and sway less side to side than sad or depressed people.” Researchers wanted to see if changing the way you walk could help boost your mood. “A recent study found that deliberately walking like a happy person can lift one’s spirits. And adopting the gait of a depressed person can bring on sadness.” The authors of the study point out that this is just one more easy way people can improve how they feel every day. They also hope that it might help those with depression. As one member of the team put it, “There is a mutual influence between mood and body and movement. There might be specific types of movements that are specific to depression and feeds the lower mood in a vicious cycle.” (Fox)

The bacteria in body may influence your weight. There’s been a lot of talk about what the bacteria in your body might be doing, but it looks like your weight might also be affected. “Researchers at Cornell University have identified a family of microbes called Christensenellaceae that appear to help people stay lean–and having an abundance of them, or not, is strongly genetic. Someday, it may be possible to have the Christensenellaceae clan adopt you, however. Mice that received transplants of the bacteria gained less weight than untreated mice eating the same diet.” The researchers wondered whether the increased use of antibiotics that kill gut bacteria indiscriminately might be contributing to obesity through this bacterial slaughter. To investigate, they looked at the bacteria in 416 pairs of fraternal versus identical twins and found that lean twins had a lot more Christensenellaceae than the obese twins. “As of now, scientists don’t know how Christensenellaceae affects human metabolism or even how it is inherited. The speculation is that human genes affect which bacteria flourish and which dwindle–much like seeds fare better or worse in different soil.” (WSJ)

Cell phones may be causing your neck and back pain. The human head is heavy, which means the neck bears a lot of weight as we move around during the day. But researchers are realizing the angle of your neck can affect how heavy the head feels, which can lead to neck pain down the line. “People spend an average of 2 to 4 hours each day with their neck bent at an unnatural angle while shooting off emails or texts. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours a year. The average adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds when it’s in the upright or neutral position. However, because of that pesky thing called physics–gravitational pull–the cranium becomes heavier the more you bend your neck.” To get a better sense of the weight felt by the neck, the researchers tested the force put through the neck at different head tilts. “His study found that bending your head at a 60 degree angle is putting 60 pounds of pressure on your cervical spine, the portion of the spine above the shoulders. Tilting your head a mere 15 degrees puts 27 pounds of pressure on your spine; a 30 degree neck tilt could equal 40 pounds of pressure; a 45 degree tilt adds the force of 49 pounds.” The authors of the study recommend that users of tablets and cell phones try to look at their screens from a neutral angle whenever possible to avoid soreness and long-term neck and back issues. (CBS)