Sitting – What should we be avoiding? By Carol K. Sheats, PT, OCS
What would you tell an adult about positioning their computer screen? Eye level or a little below, right?
Imagine if the computer screen was high up on the wall. What position would your neck be in? It wouldn’t feel good if you had to sit like that for any length of time, right?
Now imagine a child sitting on the floor looking up at the TV, or at school sitting on the floor looking up at the teacher, black board or projector screen. If we know this position would not feel good to our own neck (and back), why are we as adults letting our children be in this position for sometimes several hours a day?
As a physical therapist, I have been going to schools (pre-K through high school) providing posture programs for the past two years, and have presented to hundreds of children. In the younger grades, the worse posture I see is when the children are sitting on the floor looking up.
For those of us that believe our sitting culture is a major contributor to our postural problems (weren’t we designed for movement?), shouldn’t we be making sure our children are in good natural postures when they have to sit, or choose to sit? After all, they are going to have 12 or more years of school during which time they will spend a significant amount of time sitting. Add to that time spent sitting in front of the TV or computer screen at home, and we have a real problem if they have developed the habit of slumping when younger (what I call “banana sitting”).
What should we do? I believe it starts with educating children, parents and teachers about healthy sitting postures (there are many!). We should also provide appropriate size chairs or benches for children. If they have to sit on the floor, I recommend they should be allowed to have choices on the variety of healthy possibilities: sitting with the legs crossed (more like a yoga position with a straight balanced spine rather than a rounded spine), sitting on their knees, half-kneeling, kneeling, side-sitting, even lying on their stomachs propped on elbows at times. We can also lower the object they are looking at (teacher, T.V.) closer to eye level.
Of course I have also seen many examples of good natural healthy posture while visiting pre-K and elementary schools: when they are excited about what they are learning or playing, when they are out on the playground, or even when standing in line waiting for the bus (even with back packs on!).
So where does poor posture begin? I believe a major cause is slumped sitting. Recently while in a restaurant, I over heard a parent tell their child to “sit up straight”. How wonderful to hear an adult take the time to teach a child good posture skills. What should we be avoiding when we sit? Any posture that looks like a banana!