If you’ve harped at your child for slouching at the table or hunching over a computer, you’re onto something.
Good posture prevents stiffness and muscle tension, which can lead to fatigue, back pain, neck pain, headaches and poorer posture, and the cycle continues.
But actions speak louder than words – literally. Line Troster of Toronto’s One-to-One Physiotherapy Clinic says movement is key to good back health, and many kids aren’t getting enough of it.
“It’s as the saying goes, use it or lose it. Lack of physical activity while the body is growing can have a negative impact on your body when you’re older.” Troster, a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, has been practising for more than 30 years. She sees a “spectacular” difference in her adult patients who grew up active versus those who did not.
“The body awareness of people who have had exposure to physical activity as children helps them recover from injury more quickly, and also prevents injury.” Conversely, with limited or no physical training, the risk of injury or strain is higher, in both adults and children.
Computers can be too much of a good thing. “We really can’t blame ourselves for sitting our children in front of a computer to play, while we get something done,” Troster says. “The issue is the time period, the length of time one sustains that position.” She suggests children’s time in front of the computer be limited to one hour in order to avoid sitting in the same position for too long. Set a timer or buy a computer program that will pop up to remind kids how long they’ve been sitting in one place.
Lack of movement can cause muscle tension leading to joint compression. Rather than nagging children to sit up straight, we should really be telling them to adjust their position, she says.
Don’t sit at a computer for over an hour without getting up and moving around.
Don’t sit on an unsupported chair without adjusting your position.
Avoid laying down in bed with a laptop.
Don’t lean against a headboard with your head tilted down. It causes strain on the upper back.
Don’t use a laptop on your lap. Sit at a table or use a little laptop table.
Take regular, conscious breaths to decrease tension.
Choose a backpack with wide shoulder straps and a waist band that help evenly distribute the weight across the back and on the hipbones instead of only on the shoulders. You can also try to pare down the number of books that need to be carried every day.
POSTURE AND PERSONALITY
Troster notes children who are naturally outgoing tend to play more and are enrolled in extra-curricular activities which helps muscles develop. Children with better muscle development are less likely to slouch. On the other hand, children who are shy may have a tendency to keep their heads down and spend more time playing on computers or reading. This in turn weakens their back muscles and then it becomes harder for them to stand erect and be physically active. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Troster. “Parents have an opportunity to shape their child’s personality through encouraging good posture.”
When girls begin developing breasts they may feel shy and self-conscious and naturally draw their shoulders forward. This weakens the muscles between the shoulder blades, making it even harder to maintain proper posture. A comfortable bra will help her be less self-conscious and more inclined to keep her shoulders back. This will foster proper muscle development and protect her mid-back.
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