Posture: Why is it Important and How Can We Support It?
Posture is very important for many activities of daily living, e.g. for feeding, writing, games, schoolwork, homework and so on. Not only is it important for physical control of the body, but it can also increase attention and help increase control of eye movements.
Poor posture may be caused by a multitude of things, but it is commonly caused by low Muscle Tone resulting in reduced joint stability. (Muscle Tone is the tension in the muscles before we ‘do’ anything with those muscles. Lower muscle tone can make a child appear “floppy”) Holding a correct stable position can be extremely difficult for children with lower muscle tone, leading to slouching, restlessness/fidgeting or fatigue. Often children have persisting childhood reflexes (i.e. primitive reflexes that have not been superseded by more skilled movements and balance reactions) and if sitting posture is not corrected, head movements can affect stability and posture as well.
Why is proper posture important?
- It keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
- It allows for free, flexible movements on the arms for function by providing a stable ‘base’.
- It helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.
- It decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
- It prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
- It prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
- It prevents strain or overuse problems.
- It prevents backache and muscular pain.
- It contributes to a good appearance.
How should we sit for good posture?
- Sit with your buttocks at the back of the seat with your hips, knees and ankles at 90 degrees.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor. If a chair is too high for a child, try adding a foot block. A foot black is anything firm that the child can rest his feet on to improve his posture. These can be home-made by using old boxes or even old telephone directories.
- The desk height should be about 2 inches above the level of the elbows when the elbows are bent and the child is sitting upright in the chair.
- When sitting on the floor a cross-legged position is best. This gives more stability than long-sitting or side-sitting, which is more tiring and requires the child to use his or her hands for support.
A Few Exercises for Building Endurance to Help Posture:
Ask the child to lie on their stomach. The child must try to lift up their arms (including hands), head, shoulders, legs and thighs off the floor. Help can be given to assume this position if necessary. To make it more fun why not time it to see how long it is possible to maintain the position.
Put a few elastic bands in a bowl. Place the bowl approximately 3m (10 feet) away from the starting line. Hold onto knees or legs while the child walks on hands to the bowl (wheelbarrow walking). Once the child reaches the bowl they must put the elastic around their arms and wheelbarrow walk back to the starting point. They must try to collect the elastics as quickly as possible.