Today's children are less active than they were 20 years ago. Many spend inordinate amounts of time sitting in front of a monitor watching television or playing video games.
Human bodies, especially those of growing adolescents, require a steady flow of blood and oxygen. Movement is fundamental to this process; this is why people should not maintain a static body posture over a long period of time. This is particularly important in the classroom, where students are required to sit for extended periods. To make the problem worse, many schools require these growing bodies to sit on prehistoric furniture with outdated designs that enable only rigid sitting.
Teachers shouldn't be concerned about students that rock in their chairs. They are trying to keep alert physically and mentally. The once commonly held opinion that movement detracts from attention and concentration is no longer valid. Movement is beneficial, even while sitting. So we need “ergo-dynamic” solutions and teaching methods that encourage students to move.
One recommendation is that students should divide their days this way: 50 percent sitting (dynamic sitting); 25 percent standing at a desk; 25 percent walking around (schoolyard activities).
This periodic movement will lead to these benefits:
- Change the spinal column's wave patterns.
- Supply the intervertebral disc with nutrients.
- Stimulate the complex back muscles.
- Optimize blood circulation and thus the oxygen supply.
- Maintain brain metabolism and thus attentiveness and concentration.
Breithecker is director of the Federal Institute on the Development of Posture and Exercise in Wiesbaden, Germany, and a member of the International Ergonomics Association's Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments Technical Committee.