Back to Basics: 10 Ways to Improve Children’s Posture in the Classroom
Those of us who are sat at a desk from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday understand the importance of a comfortable work station. Most large companies employ occupational health specialists to tinker with our expensive office chairs, adjusting the height, seat depth and back position to put us at eye-level with our screens. We have foot rests under our desks, squashy rubber mats to rest our wrists on and we’re encouraged to take regular screen breaks.
But in schools, where children spend a large part of their day sat at desks, there is no such regulation to keep posture and comfort in check. Postural problems in children are a growing concern, with physiotherapists witnessing increasing numbers of children as young as 8 years old presenting with back and neck problems. A recent study showed 72% of primary school and 64% of secondary school children experienced back pain at school, with the majority of cases going unreported.
Importantly, 78% of the children surveyed wanted to know more about back and neck care, and how to keep their spines healthy. Here are 10 top tips for healthy back care at school as advised by leading child physiotherapist, Lorna Taylor:
- Think “30:30 sit and stretch”. Limit sitting to 30 minutes, stretch and wriggle for 30 seconds.
- Limit cross-legged floor sitting to 10 minutes. Encourage movement, side sitting; straight legged sitting or cross-legged on a seat wedge cushion.
- Ensure all children have a clear view of the board without twisting. If not, can they turn their chair around or move position?
- Report eyesight concerns home if children are excessively hunching over their work or a screen.
- Never use a laptop flat on a desk, it should be raised up/on a stand so the top of the screen is at eye level, with a separate mouse and keyboard.
- Encourage all students to learn to touch type so they are not “hunting and pecking” repetitively looking from screen to keyboard.
- Recommended safe school bag weight is 10 per cent or less of body weight. Encourage students to repack their bag each night so they only carry what they need. Safe storage areas/lockers are a healthy investment.
- Physical activity is essential for back health, avoid restricting break and PE times.
- Fidgeting students and those leaning back using “bucket chairs” are most likely uncomfortable, can they stand up, readjust position and sit back down again? Better still, trial and invest in ergonomically designed student chairs to improve the learning environment.
- Key “back healthy” features of ergonomically designed student chairs are: lower back support, seat shape to encourage knees level or lower than hips and adequate circulation, lightweight (if lifting and carrying), non-tip back legs and backrest ventilation to ensure optimum body working temperature.