Walking Tall

Posture – good or bad – is a habit which can be learnt or unlearnt if necessary. It may be a surprise that good posture is important for children, but it is if they want to avoid unnecessary pain and injury in the future.

Good posture is about more than walking tall, feeling confident and looking good, it’s actually important for the human body to function properly.

Why is good posture important for children?

While growing, proper posture is important for the healthy development of the spine and body muscles. Poor posture will likely create spinal and neck pain, and studies prove that kids with good postures escape lower back pain and numerous other health discomforts, because they have a strong frame which makes them more resilient and resistant to injury.

What are the signs of bad posture?

There are many obvious signs of poor posture, such as rounded shoulders or a shoulder tilt, flat feet and turned in toes, knock knees and a head tilt, and slouching when sitting or standing.

What are the causes of poor posture?

Causes may also depend on the age of your child. Babies are born with their spines in a C-shape because they have been lying in the foetal position. As they develop, the various weight bearing activities of sitting, crawling and walking enable the correct three spinal curves to develop. However, keeping baby in a poorly designed pram or car seat for extended periods, will impede this development and negatively affect their posture too.

School going kids can develop poor posture from carrying school bags that are too heavy, and spending too much time slumped in front of television or hunched over tablets and phones. Poor footwear is another cause of bad posture and shoes that support the ankles and arches are important for good posture. However, central nervous system problems as well as musculo-skeletal problems may also negatively affect posture.

How do you teach kids good posture?

Explaining why good posture is necessary – for healthy bone growth, body strength and self-confidence as a start – is important, along with leading by example and praising your child’s efforts. Also limit television time and let kids sit on a stability ball while watching or playing computer games, correctly position study desks and chairs so the desk is elbow height when seated, buy rucksacks for school books and encourage them to be carried properly – to spread the weight load – and not slung over one shoulder, promote physical activity like riding bikes and climbing trees for core strength, teach kids to sit with their feet flat on the floor and ensure their mattresses are firm to sleep on. Play fun games with younger kids in order to teach good posture, like walking while balancing a book on your head.

If you’re unsure of your child’s posture, have a chiropractor do an assessment and advise on the best way forward. They are after all the ultimate posture experts.

Posture exercises for children:

Cape Town biokineticist Nico Uys says: “Identifying bad posture in children is not always as easy as it sounds. Knowing what information is credible is also important, which is why it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect something is wrong with a child’s posture. ‘Natural’ posture for children changes through their development stages and self-diagnosing and treating something you might perceive as a problem, might cause even more damage to the young child’s posture as they develop.”

Nico says that correcting faulty posture involves three aspects: creating postural awareness of what correct posture feels like; restoring muscle balance by strengthening weak muscles and releasing short or over active muscles; eliminating faulty movements by programming the body to do the movements correctly. “As posture, muscle balance and movement patterns improve, progressing to more functional total body movements can begin,”