How Proper Posture Can Change Your Child’s Life
How many of you can remember your parents or a teacher telling you to sit up straight or walk with your head held high? These words of encouragement to make you look more presentable are actually beneficial for your health. Recent studies are showing just how important posture is for your physical and mental health. Posture is especially important for children as they move through developmental stages.
Posture is more than just sitting up straight; studies show that posture can play an important role in the neuromuscular development, the prevalence of pain, social progress, and mental health of children.
Cognitive Development and Posture
If you think back to your school days, the children who were most alert and engaged were the students that had good posture while the children who slumped and slouched were less alert, participated less, and sometimes nodded off.
Information Recall is Better with Proper Posture
Standing desks are showing up in more work offices and school settings with good reason. Standing desks promote a variety of health benefits for children such as better information recall, which helps them become better learners. One study found that when children were provided with a standing desk as opposed to a traditional sitting desk, they were faster to recall information and they were more accurate in their responses. What’s more, it has been suggested that standing desks may be more beneficial for a child’s physical development of fine motor skills. (2)
Better Posture for Children with ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has become commonplace in the classroom, leaving many teachers and parents to wonder what can be done to maximize learning while minimizing disruption. Proper posture may be the answer. Studies show that children with ADHD performed better in working memory tests than developing children when they were provided with a swivel chair that encouraged an upright posture with the ability to move around. (3)
Social Development and Posture
Self-Image and Self Esteem
In a recent study where students at Ohio State University were asked to fill out mock job applications listing their strengths and weaknesses in one of two postures (slumped or sitting up straight), researchers found that slumped sitting resulted in lower work-related self-confidence than sitting up straight (1).
Another study published in the Journal of Health Psychology confirmed that maintaining a proper upright posture increases self-esteem and a positive self-image. (4)
Positive vs. Negative Thinking
A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback also took subjects through slouched and upright positions and asked the subjects to recall positive or negative thoughts. An overwhelming 92% of the subjects reported that it was easier to generate positive thoughts in the upright position. (4, 5)
The ability to effectively communicate has its foundation in childhood development. Habits of turning the eyes down, stuttering, and an intense focus on self instead of listening are primarily developed as a child. Studies show that sitting upright with a proper posture increases the rate and confidence of speech while minimizing the focus on the self, encouraging listening and empathy. (4)
Pain and Posture
Less Pain in General with Proper Posture
Did you know that 8 out of 10 people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives? What’s more, lower back pain is the leading cause of physical disability in the world. It goes without saying how important it is to ensure you avoid back pain and lower back complications if you can. You can’t guarantee you’ll be able to avoid back pain due to circumstances such as a slip, fall, or injury but proper posture can help you take control of what is within your means. (6)
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation surveyed both children and adolescents with poor posture and complaints of headaches, musculoskeletal pain, and general pain was cited as the most common; nearly half of the subjects surveyed reported one or all of these symptoms. (6)
Reduced Risk of Pain Throughout Life with Good Posture Habits
Children and adolescents who continue to adopt poor posture have been shown to experience more pain and worsening conditions as they get older. A study published in the European Spine Journal demonstrated that when poor posture is maintained from childhood into adolescence, and there is lower back pain, the likelihood of developing chronic lower back pain in adulthood is four times greater. Chronic back pain is a serious issue that can negatively impact your quality of life and last for years, worsening as you age. (7)
Risk of Preventable Disease
Sitting is the most notable time when we all, perhaps unknowingly, give in to comfort and allow for poor posture. Sitting has been deemed the new smoking as more and more children are living a sedentary lifestyle thanks to entertainment technology such as online gaming and instant access to movies.
Children and adolescents who reported the highest rates of pain were also more likely to spend more time watching television and not being physically active. A sedentary lifestyle can weaken core musculature placing a child and adolescent at a greater risk for back pain. What’s more, the risk for preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer also significantly increases when physical activity is absent. (6-7)
How to Improve Your Child’s Posture
Discuss the importance of proper posture with your child. Define and show how to maintain proper posture during sitting, standing, and walking. Provide your child with friendly and polite cues if you notice they are not practicing proper posture. The best way to ensure proper posture for your child is to set an example and maintain proper posture yourself.
Physical activity and exercise are essential to a child’s development. Encourage your child to get outside and play. Activity helps develop core strength which will support your child’s good posture.
Annual chiropractic checkups are important for children as they can identify and correct small issues before they become serious. If your child has been complaining about back pain, headaches, or neck pain, don’t dismiss it as “growing pains” – get them checked out. A chiropractor can determine the cause of the pain and suggest some remedies; one of which may be helping to educate you and your child on proper posture for situations they might find challenging (such as when using a laptop or tablet, sitting for long hours in a classroom, or study-time).
1) Brinol, P., Petty, R.E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 1053-1064.
2. Sherry AP, Pearson N, Clemes SA. The effects of standing desks within the school classroom: A systematic review. Preventive Medicine Reports. 2016;3:338-347. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.03.016.
3. Sarver DE1, Rapport MD, Kofler MJ, Raiker JS, Friedman LM.
J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2015 Oct;43(7):1219-32. doi: 10.1007/s10802-015-0011-1.
Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior?
4. Nair S, Sagar M, Sollers J 3rd, Consedine N, Broadbent E. Health Psychol. Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial. 2015 Jun;34(6):632-41. doi: 10.1037/hea0000146. Epub 2014 Sep 15.
5. Wilson VE, Peper E. The effects of upright and slumped postures on the recall of positive and negative thoughts. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2004 Sep;29(3):189-95.
6. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The Global Burden of Disease:
Generating Evidence, Guiding Policy. Seattle, WA: IHME, 2013.
7. Meziat Filho, Ney & Coutinho, Evandro & Azevedo E Silva, Gulnar. (2014). Association between home posture habits and low back pain in high school adolescents. European Spine Journal. 24. 10.1007/s00586-014-3571-9.
Dr. DeFabio is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.