Most school curriculums focus on academic information with minimal mention of life skills and other cognitive capabilities. Among some of the principles of social etiquette and personal confidence is training in good posture. Designer, author, and style editor, Cindy Ann Peterson, writes: ‘Your posture is the key to your personal and professional foundation.’ In her book My Style, My way, she goes on to say ‘How you carry yourself speaks volumes of how you feel about yourself.’
Why is good posture for children important?
Let’s apply this observation in the context of developmental studies in children. When babies first learn to sit they tend to lengthen the spine naturally, a position that requires muscle strength. At a sitting position, as opposed to holding themselves, their muscles are relaxed and their bones hold them up. Around the time they start at pre-school, they begin to slump. This may be because of several factors such as parents setting poor examples, unsupportive furniture, and the increase of screen time. They start to spend a lot of time rounding their backs and craning their heads towards screens. This kind of posture sets them up for a lifetime of chronic back pain.
A study called ‘Poor sitting posture and a heavy schoolbag as contributors to musculoskeletal pain in children’ evaluated a multidisciplinary, interventional, ergonomic education program. They found out that students who received ergonomic intervention reported significant improvements in sitting posture in classroom environments and reduces schoolbag weight. Posture correction in children goes beyond just telling them to sit straight. It starts at teaching them to love their bodies so that they become interested in their own health. Mentorship in proper posture includes coaching at sports, practice sessions, and a few tricks.
The Dangers of Poor Posture in Children
Lifestyle habits that children develop are critical as they persist throughout adulthood and will carry them for a lifetime. Poor posture is likely to cause the following problems:
● A distorted spinal curve
● Back pain
● Body pain
● Indigestion problems
● Reduced respiratory capacity
● Mood swings
What can we do?
There is no need to reinvent the wheel while tracking and correcting posture. We can trace back to ancient wisdom and drizzle a modern twist to it. Posture is not a new idea. The Vedic school of thought in Ancient India prescribed the gurukul system of education. Yoga asanas and particular postures were important to the holistic development of the child. Even in the West, over 100 years ago, doctors cautioned education stakeholders about unhealthy posture in children. This sparked off rampant campaigns to prevent poor postures and Physical Education (P.E.) became a mandatory subject in schools right up to college level. Schools today may continue to have physical training or yoga classes.
Children also tend to imitate the behavior of adults around them. Parents must monitor the child’s screen time and shift the gadget from there laps or hands to the tabletop. Chronic back pain is preventable at an early age. And schools are perhaps places that children spend most of their waking hours.
A few tips that can be taught at schools:
● Bring the head over the neck and shoulders
● Sit leaning a little forward while the waist stays at the back of the seat
● Find the lower back curve
● Involve the whole body during physical activity
● Pick the book up while reading to avoid slouching over
● Sit down while eating
● Backpacks must be no more than 10% of their body weight
● Always wear backpacks over two shoulders
● Contract abdominal muscles to support the lower back
Posture Evaluation and Correction at Schools
Posture evaluation can start at the age of 6. It may be conducted yearly and at different developmental stages to track distortion patterns so they may be identified and corrected easily. Unhealthy patterns may turn into chronic and cause spinal degeneration if not addressed. Good posture is rudimentary to a child’s overall health. It determines their physical framework and general development.
In order to stay mindful of their posture and stay on top of their health charts, it is important to communicate a few principles. As Steven Weiniger, the author of Stand Taller Live Longer breaks it down, they can ACE their childhood with the following simple steps:
● Be Aware
● Take Control
● Optimize the Environment
The development and education of a child may be attributed to multiple stakeholders like teachers, educators, parents, etc. These stakeholders must empower children to take ownership of their lifestyle habits. Classroom furniture and playground infrastructure needs to be ergonomically designed to make it favorable to the needs of growing children. Schools should have physical training that makes children conscious of how they sit, stand, and walk. And as the old saying goes, ‘train your children in the way that they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.’