Levent Çaglar, the head of ergonomics at the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), is a great advocate for the health benefits of learning to sit dynamically versus the harmful effects on children when forced to adopt static postures for prolonged periods.
Figures that could change
Back pain among school children is on the rise. About 12% of 12-year-olds and 22% of 16-year-olds experience recurrent back pain. Another figure that should not be overlooked is that 15% of kids between 12 and 16 years old seek medical attention to solve these ailments.
It should be clear that the causes of this pain include the use of inappropriate furniture during the 15,000 hours they spend sitting at school when their bodies are growing.
Another factor we are also aware of is the transport of heavy loads of books and equipment in unsuitable storage systems.
Promoting movement is crucial
If we observe children, we see that they move naturally all the time, especially at an early age. Movement is essential for their growth and an essential act to strengthen their muscles. For example, rocking to the sides, back and forth when standing and sitting are key actions for children to develop balance and strengthen their back muscles for good posture.
Giving up this natural dynamic by providing furniture that prevents them from moving, causes children to tip their chairs back on their hind legs, creating both the danger of falling and a distraction during lessons.
Since children cannot make smooth movements while sitting, they make sudden movements, such as sitting sideways or resting the upper part of the body on the table, which, in addition to causing structural pain, can be a source of distraction in class.
Teaching methods and the use of technology generally force children to work in unhealthy static postures, and teachers often associate movement with misbehavior and ask children to sit still and not move, when, in fact, being able to adopt healthy dynamic postures increases alertness and productivity.
For children to adopt dynamic postures, they need versatile spaces and chairs that allow them to rock or recline a bit, roll over to talk to others, or watch the teacher move.
Seek mind-body balance
As children’s lifestyles are increasingly sedentary outside of school and as they choose to move less during breaks as they get older, it is essential that seats at school promote dynamic postures and that furniture and activities allow for shorter periods of sitting.
To promote healthy movement, schools must take more account of the link between healthy minds and bodies. Beyond increasing healthy eating and promoting exercise sessions, they should take into account the design of learning spaces and their furniture. This would improve the health, well-being and learning capacity of children and reduce disruptive behavior in the classroom.
What we need from the future school furniture
It is vital that the environment, furniture and educational activities promote natural movement and healthy postures throughout the day.
In schools, the seating solutions considered should:
- Promote the well-being of children, especially preventing back diseases.
- Provide a dynamic seating which fosters movement during and between activities.
- Adapt to the healthy use of technology and equipment, without putting children’s necks, shoulders, and wrists at risk.
- Ensure a good adaptation to children of all sizes.
- Be flexible and adaptable to a variety of activities and children.
- Be comfortable and perceived as comfortable.
- Be aesthetically pleasing and attractive so that children feel like owners.
The importance of posture for health and learning
Static and poorly adjusted chairs can also limit children’s learning ability by forcing them into positions where the abdomen and chest are compressed. This reduces your oxygen consumption and consequently restricts the supply of oxygen to your muscles and brain, making your limbs feel tired and your brain less alert. It inhibits their learning and can affect their healthy growth.