Don’t Let Reading Hurt Your Balance


John Paul Ouvrier

John Paul Ouvrier

Reading is wonderful. Wonderful for your intelligence, as a pastime, to look forward to, to enjoy, to share, etc. Yet reading and the physical position that most of us read in, sometimes for hours at a time, can affect our balance in negative ways. Let me share a story with you:

I was called to work with a wonderful woman in her late 80’s named Thelma. Thelma had developed a balance problem that no one could seem to fix. She was having trouble walking, especially when she first got up from sitting. She didn’t like this because she had been walking with a group of girl friends for years and wanted to continue. Yet she was rapidly losing confidence in her walking skills.

Thelma had been to the doctor (and so should everyone who has a balance problem firstly), and the doctor had cleared her medically. Her ears were fine, her brain was fine, her nerves were fine, so he sent her to the physical therapist.

The same thing happened at the physical therapist. He cleared her as well. So what was the problem?

I decided to see what her daily habits were, and where and when she was experiencing the most amounts of balance problems. It turned out she would have the most amount of balance issues after sitting and reading for a long time, and then trying to get up and walk. And in her case there was the answer.

Thelma told me she was an avid reader, in fact she didn’t just read books, she devoured them! She would read up to six hours a day; she would get a good book, some tea and food, and read the better part of the day.

I asked her to show me the position she read in, and then I knew. She sat in her favorite wingback chair, with the book in her lap, head looking down to the book. Head looking down… collapsed spine… for hours at a time… can affect anyone’s balance, especially an older adult.

So what did your favorite fitness author do? I told her what I have taught many adults and school children to do:

If you read or study for hours at a time, do so with your head up and back, ideally with your upper body in a reclining position. If you can’t recline, sit up tall, and arrange your reading material so that it is in front of you, rather than below you. Many people do this by sitting in a chair or in bed by putting pillows under their elbows to bring the book up closer to the eyes. Here’s the bottom line, if you’re at the age where your spine, or your ears, or your nerves will be impacted by being in a poor body position for hours at a time, and you can control that position, then do so. If you don’t you could suffer from any number of problems, balance included.

This is just as true for people who watch lots of television. We all know someone who reads or watches TV every night and falls asleep chin to chest, slumped downwards.

My friends, listen to me carefully: If you continue to spend hours of your life in a position like this, eventually your body will accept this position as normal, and you will then have your own problems based on compression to the spine, or inner ear issues, or eye issues, which could adversely affect your balance, as well as many other health issues.

We are not designed to sit all day, yet if you do ( I think we all do ), please find a safe position to read, study, and watch TV in. Your balance may depend on it.

~Because you’re stronger than you think, and you can do more than you know!~

John Paul Ouvrier, known as The Wizard of Youth, is a fitness trainer who specializes in working with older adults. Please consult with your doctor or medical professional before beginning this or any exercise program or advice. The contents of this article do not constitute medical advice. Contact him at, and bring him in to entertain your audiences! and


  1. I did a posture check at paragraph 4. Thank you for the great reminder.

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