US Nanny Institute on June 9, 2020
When we were growing up, our parents and grandparents would tell us to ‘Stand up straight’ and sit tall, don’t slouch!”. These admonitions were aimed at improving our posture. This is important as parents and nannies need to demonstrate good posture.
Posture is the body’s alignment and positioning with respect to gravity. No matter what we are doing, gravity is exerting force upon our bodies. Good posture positions us so that the force of gravity is evenly distributed throughout our body so no one part is overstressed. Good posture allows your muscles and joints to work properly and improves muscle and joint function. This can benefit you by making breathing easier, preventing back pain, and better supporting your entire body.
Sitting and standing with proper postural alignment allows you to work more efficiently with less fatigue and strain on your body’s ligaments and muscles. Good posture is important to balance – when you stand up straight, you center your weight over your feet. This is one of many reasons stand up desks are recommended for those who work on computers all day.
When medical professionals evaluate someone’s posture, they first look at the alignment of the weight-bearing joints while the person is standing. The ideal alignment occurs when the bodyweight is balanced over the spine and lower extremity joints requiring minimum muscular effort. This alignment also evenly distributes pressure on the intervertebral discs and avoids excessive stress on the ligaments. Next, they may look at the person’s sitting positioning.
The sitting position is where most of us get into trouble with poor postural habits and a lot of us sit for most of our day. We’re using our computers at a desk, driving, or looking down at our phones. We are generally focused on what we are doing and not the position of our bodies. We may lean forward to concentrate on something and not realize our entire body is leaning. When the weight of the upper body is not balanced over the spinal column, spinal ligaments may become stretched and we require increased muscular energy. Over time, we become tired and sore.
Ideally, the S-shaped curvature of the spine that is characteristic of good standing posture should be maintained when sitting. Shoulders rounded forward which can occur when your car seat is too far away from the steering wheel further contributes to a pattern of imbalance. To sit correctly, sit all the way back in a straight-backed chair and place a folded towel or small pillow in the arch of the low back. Fortunately, many new office chairs and car seats come with built-in lumbar supports and other adjustable features.
When standing, we should strive to ensure our body weight is evenly distributed over both feet with our chin parallel to the floor, our shoulders even, our spine in a neutral position (not flexing or arching),our arms at our sides, our abdominal muscles braced, our hips even, our and knees pointing straight forward. When sitting down, we should strive to ensure our chin is parallel to the floor; our shoulders, hips, and knees are at even heights; and our knees and feet are pointing straight ahead.
Bad posture can result in stress that can cause wear on joints It can be the result of bad habits or the result of a physical problem. Tight, inflexible muscles may decrease the range of motion and cause poor posture. Muscle strength can also impact posture. We hear a lot about a body’s ‘core’ when it comes to exercise programs. The core is comprised of the back, side, pelvis, and buttocks muscles that form the central link between your upper and lower body. If these are weak, they encourage slumping, which tips your body forward and thus off balance.
Poor posture can impact your life in many ways. Excessive stress on joints and ligaments can cause osteoarthritis over time. When the muscles and tendons are unnecessarily stressed and overworked, should and back pain are common. The musculoskeletal system is not the only one impacted. Excess stress on the muscles and bones can also affect the nerves, blood vessels, and even the internal organs that may result in circulation, breathing and even digestive difficulties.
Now for the good news! Most posture problems can be improved with a few simple exercises and an awareness of the issue. Adults can improve their posture with quick checks in the mirror to check positioning and exercises to improve those core muscle groups. As with most things, it is easier to address posture issues before they become bad habits.
Here are 6 tips parents and nannies can use to help children improve their posture so that good posture becomes second nature to them.
1. Keep children active. Make sure they move and exercise every day.
2. Mimic your parents and grandparents by reminding them to “sit up straight” and ”stand tall”.
3. Keep school bags as light as possible to avoid undue stress on the child’s back and shoulder. Make sure backpacks fit properly and evenly distribute weight. Also, make sure the child wears them properly.
4. Encourage them to practice balance. They can stand on one leg in line, combing their hair, washing hands, or brushing teeth.
5. Discourage the child from creating a ‘dominate’ side. Have children kick balls with both feet, change legs when using a scooter, and throw balls with both the right and left hands.
6. Encourage stretching before and after activities to lessen the chance of injury and to improve flexibility.
These are just a few ways to encourage good posture and prevent posture-related problems. If you are concerned about a child’s posture, they should be seen by their pediatrician for evaluation. There are some conditions that require medical intervention (for example, scoliosis). The earlier any problems are detected the easier they are to treat.
Being aware of good posture is the first step to breaking bad postural habits and reducing stress and strain on the spine It’s never too early to encourage children to have good posture. They go through several physical and mental growth stages and the ideal outcome would be proper posture as their default position when sitting or standing. By putting this knowledge into practice one can prevent the structural anatomical changes that can develop if poor posture is left uncorrected for many years.
The US Nanny Institute provides online childcare classes with certification programs based on a curriculum specifically designed to advance the skills of Nannies and Sitters. The Nanny Institute has over 30 college faculty with a passion for education and childcare, bringing them together to help childcare providers gain practical skills and qualifications that benefit their careers and the children in their care.
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