Those of us who had a good laugh at Randy Newman’s hilarious song “Short People Have No Reason To Live” know that being short isn’t so bad. My family is short. For us, airline travel is ghastly, but possible. We never have to duck our heads when passing through a doorway. We can hold our kids’ hands when they’re learning to walk, and those of us who care don’t have to layer up to cover our knees when wearing a skirt. In theory long legs are great, but being very tall actually affects your health and your consumer, career and life choices in a way that those of us who are average height or less might not be aware of.
IS HEIGHT A PREDICTOR OF LONGEVITY?
The research is split right down the middle on this one. There are studies showing that tall people live longer and other studies showing that men under 5 foot 2 inches live the longest. The reasons are both biological and socioeconomic. It is possible that lungs might not do such a great job supplying all that extra body, and cancer risk seems to go up (all those extra cells). On the other hand, tall men earn more money and are more attractive to women. The rest you already know. Everything is a trade-off. Here are some things to consider if you are very tall.
- Rethink Commuting
A very tall friend recently told me “I have a terrible time on buses and that affects my life. If I want to commute to a job my back is going to be hurting. Airplane travel? Forget it! I just hate it. Now that I think of it, I am probably self employed because of my dislike of inter-city travel”. Is he better or worse off? I don’t know how he feels about his career choices, but his decision not to commute positively affects his chances for longevity. A study by the American Journal Of Preventive Medicine concluded that “commuting distance was adversely associated with physical activity, CRF (cardio-respiratory fitness), adiposity, and indicators of metabolic risk.” Studies have shown that the chances of having a cardiovascular incident go up dramatically immediately after sitting in traffic. If you find this surprising, you obviously don’t drive to work in rush hour.
- Overcome the Challenge of Small Cars
The average anthropometric profile of the people in your car’s country of origin is going to affect its seat and leg room design. Remember your Daddy’s car when you were a kid? When you sat in the back, your legs couldn’t reach the front seat if you wanted them to. Chances are, he was driving a Buick, Oldsmobile, or Chrysler and that’s when those cars were designed and built in North America for North Americans. Many people who find driving difficult due to back pain choose a car based on the comfort of the seat. People who find driving impossible switch their car’s original seat to a hydraulic orthopedic seat. Maybe you just want to look great. In any case, get out of your car and stretch more often.
- Sit Tall to Reduce Your Risk of Lower Back and Neck Pain
There are natural musculoskeletal risks of being tall. You don’t have to add postural risks. If you are tall, be height proud. Are you adjusting your height at the neck, shoulders or lower back to be at the same level as your shorter friends and family members? If you are the same height as your partner when seated but tower above them by 35 centimeters when standing, you should think of the cumulative effects on your posture.
- Sit Less
Most seating is not designed for the very tall so people with long legs sit less. This is unequivocally good. The more you sit, the more likely you are develop a host of morbid medical conditions. If you sit less, your risk of high cholesterol, poor metabolism, heart disease goes down. Whether it’s in a car, on a commuter train, on an airplane or at your desk, the longer you sit, the more you compromise your health. If you are very tall, you are probably getting up and moving around a lot more than your shorter counterparts.
- Choose Appropriate Workstation Furniture
Make sure your furniture is customized or adjustable. You need a desk height that is at the high end of the range (76 cm or more). The very best office chairs come in small, medium and large versions. Make sure the desk/chair fit is good. If you are very tall and suffer from back pain, maybe the standing workstation is for you. Remember, pain is your body’s early warning system for avoiding injury. Learn to listen when your body is speaking to you.