It has been roughly a month since my children started e-learning. Everyone has a semi-quiet place to do their daily work and online classes. Each child sits in a comfortable chair, and their computers are on their desks. I thought all was well, but then the complaints started: not about the amount of work or the hours of being in school, but about stiff necks, back pain, and headaches.
It dawned on me that my children are not used to sitting in front of a computer all day and that their bodies are not used to being in the same position for long periods of time. So, I reached out to Physical Therapist, Rebecca Johnson, for some advice on keeping our backs and necks healthy while studying and doing e-learning.
Rebecca's response starts with the idea of self-awareness. Naturally, parents will not be able to observe their children and their postures during the entire school day, so children need to cultivate self-awareness about their postures so that they can self-correct habits that lead to later pain and discomfort.
Rebecca suggests children start by asking themselves some questions to increase their body awareness. She proposes a simple equation to support body awareness:
Body awareness = Attention on WHAT we DO
Start by answering these questions:
- Do you sit on your bed to do homework?
- Are you sore after you study?
- Is your neck sore after time on your phone or laptop?
- Are your parents always telling you to sit up?
It is Rebecca Johnson's mission to help create lifelong habits that are GOOD! Habits can either be good or bad. At Clapham, we know that habits do not just happen miraculously or overnight; rather, habits are intentionally trained.
If you think about all the activity options available to children today: computer games, apps, books, puzzles, TV, we come to see that we all sit longer than we play. Now add six or so hours a day for formal school instruction and one to three hours a day for homework, at least five days a week, for weeks on end, and you start to see how important it is to cultivate habits of good posture from an early age.
Rebecca suggests that focusing on creating good sitting habits will prepare children to be SMARTER in college, FASTER in sports, and STRONGER on future adventure hikes.
Good Sitting Habits = A Stronger Body
Rebecca suggests these Top FIVE Tips to Create a Healthy Neck and Back while sitting:
- Find a space that FITS you: Place your feet flat on the floor. A good base of support keeps your core engaged without you actively having to think about it. No more swinging your feet while you sit or hooking them around the chair's legs. Place them flat on the floor in front of you.
- Keep LEVEL: Position your feet, forearms, thighs, and chin level while sitting to study or using your electronics. An increased awareness of these details avoids pinching and stress on tissues throughout the body.
- Get up and MOVE: Every 30 minutes, choose to walk around the house, do jumping jacks, squats, or skipping for at least 30 seconds. Movement of your muscles, heart, and lungs increases the circulation of nutrients in your body. Drink some water every time you get up to keep your body hydrated and your brain focussed.
- Get your plank ON: Strengthen your core in good alignment. Hold a plank for 20-30 seconds, 3 times a day. Start off on your forearms, squeeze your inner thighs and glutes and drop your tail. Hold this position for as long as you can. If it gets too challenging, drop to your knees, but return to the original position as soon as you feel able to. Once you feel you are not challenged by this position anymore, move to a push-up position, and plank with extended arms. Again, do not be afraid to drop down to your knees if you have to. Next, progress to side planks, or add a sandbag on your hips to make it more challenging.
- Let's HEAR a Moo and Meow: Move through a cat/camel exercise on your hands and knees to increase movement along all the joints in your spine. Perform this exercise 5 to 10 times a day. You will feel the movement of your spine and sense your back and neck muscles relax.
"When our student-athletes experience pain, their body is 'teaching' them something and increasing their body awareness."
So the next time your child mentions muscular-skeletal discomfort after an e-learning session, gently guide them through questions to a self-awareness of the problem.
The five tips listed above provides a student with resources to thrive not only while studying but also in other areas of their life. Practicing good posture is an important part of successful learning. Not only does it align your joints and bones in the spine, but it also relaxes your back muscles, reduces back and neck pain, and, most importantly it reduces fatigue and helps you power through learning.
Rebecca Johnson is a Licensed Physical Therapist in Warrenville, IL, who supports the health of our up and coming student-athletes. She encourages students to focus on their postural alignment on and off the field to enhance their level of play. If you are interested in learning more from Rebecca, please visit her website: firstname.lastname@example.org