Nipping posture problems in the bud at the earliest age is the key to a pain-free future. Signs of posture problems include slouching, sitting for too long, walking on the toes or walking with the toes pointed outward. New York-based exercise physiologist Bill Boland says bad habits begin young and that he’s seen clients as young as six years old. Bill says parents play a major role in their kids physical well-being, and that role starts earlier than you might expect. “It doesn’t do any good to tell your kids to sit up straight and not slouch,” says Bill. “What parents can do is demonstrate good practices and habits themselves.” Bill also advises:
Ditch the baby shoes
“Babies don’t need shoes,” he says. “We develop arches by walking without shoes, but can end up with flat feet when we wear shoes as our feet are developing.” He says flat feet will cause knees to point inward, which contributes to knee pain, poor gait, and difficulty walking later in life.
“Avoid putting your kids in shoes until it’s absolutely necessary for their safety.”
Play a variety of sports or activities
It’s important for kids to avoid specializing in just one sport, yet “it’s common for parents to choose a single sport for their kids, rather than a variety,” says Bill. Bodies are guided by the movement patterns we develop, so kids who specialize in one sport or activity are at risk of over or under using certain muscles.
Consult the experts
Bill says a podiatrist, physiotherapist, exercise specialist or even a good yoga teacher can improve a child’s posture. Some experts may require a referral from a family doctor and some of the cost may be covered by private health benefits or provincial health care. “These specialists have an inventory of exercises that can help,” Bill says. “Your child might only need one session with a follow up in a few months. The trick is compliance.”
Get off your butts!
Exercise physiologist Bill Boland says it’s time to move. “We encourage our kids to sit and learn for hours at a time,” says Bill, yet sitting too much allows our muscles to shorten. He recommends everyone – including children – take four to five minutes each day to do three exercises to combat the effects of sitting:
- standing arm circles
- bend over and touch your toes
“You’ll be able to move easily, your joints will be in the right place as your get older, and you will be pain free and age well,” says Bill.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2015.