WHY “Good Posture” is So Important for School!

by Dr. Ali

We are always hearing about “good posture” and how important it is for us. We hear “sit up straight” and “don’t slouch” often, whether you are saying it to your kiddo or you hear another parent or a teacher saying it to another kiddo. What is never partnered with these phrases is WHY this is so important. I wish that as a kid, somebody told me why sitting up tall was so important, because if they had, maybe I would have done it more instead of slouching!

Sitting with supported, aligned posture is SO important for every body, and for all mobility statuses. If you are curious as to WHAT good posture looks like, click HERE to read a blog post all about appropriate postural alignment and for some solutions to help with sitting posture throughout the school or work day. 

It’s also important to remember that a “good posture” is also one that you’re not in for too long!  We want to empower our kids to listen to and respond to what their bodies need- that may be using a standing desk for periods of the day or sitting on a wedge to support a more traditional aligned upright posture. However, we do want all of our kids to have the flexibility and postural control to sustain an actively aligned posture for periods of time.

SO, without further ado, we are here to tell you all about one of the BIGGEST benefits of sitting with nice, spinal alignment. And what is this benefit you ask? BREATHING! Sitting with your spine in a properly aligned position makes sure that your ribs are in the right places to allow for proper expansion when we breathe in. Sitting with our core activated, with our ribs and spine in a proper alignment ensures that your diaphragm (the big muscle that attaches to your ribs and sits below your lungs) is in the perfect position to contract and relax for breathing. With your ribs and spine in the right position, your lungs have enough room to expand and let in all the air they can. Then your breathing muscles (the diaphragm and more) are in the best position to bring in all that air (aka a win win)! When you sit up TALL, your breathing is not SMALL! 

So, WHY is breathing efficiently important for effective learning throughout the school day? Breathing in big, natural breaths gets oxygen into our lungs, which then gets taken all over the body. Our brain needs oxygen to think all the thoughts we need for our school lessons. The heart needs oxygen to keep beating with a strong and healthy rhythm. The arms and legs need oxygen to fuel their muscles to move and groove or patiently raise a hand to answer a question. The stomach and intestines need oxygen from the blood to digest your yummy lunch so you can turn it into energy! Basically, the WHOLE body needs oxygen to keep on keeping on and to continue doing what each part is supposed to do!

The body needs oxygen for SO many things! And not just any amount of oxygen, but the right amount of oxygen. If the lungs fill with too little oxygen, then the body is only working off of what it has, and maybe compensating for the energy it is missing. You may feel tired throughout the day, with lots of yawns and trouble focusing. This is something we definitely want to avoid when our kiddos go back to school! When they go to school for the day, we give them a hearty breakfast in the morning to make sure they have enough energy to last them until lunch time and a hearty lunch to get them through the rest of the day. BUT both of these amazing meals are not going to help them combat the tiredness they will feel if they are not breathing right all day long at school because of poor posture. 

Good posture and optimal breathing supports emotional regulation, by increasing access to the parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of our “fight or flight system.”  It impacts a child’s ability to use their eyes, especially for desktop work, but also the ability to move back and forth between looking far at the teacher and looking close at desk work.  It also impacts handwriting and other fine motor skills. 

Our ability to sustain our posture over a long period of time is not only the result of the chair we are sitting on but also our body’s ability to sustain “good posture” using our muscles and sensory system. Some kids have a hard time with the muscular endurance or strength required for good posture. Others have a hard time sensing where their body is when sitting and thus sit in a very relaxed, forward curved posture. Some kids have a combination of both of these factors (and typically this is the case). If you notice your child sitting with slouched posture at home, you can probably assume they are sitting that way at school. If they are sitting that way at school too, they are not breathing in the most efficient way and may not be getting the proper amount of oxygen throughout the day for peak concentration! If you feel like this is your child, it is not something that can’t be helped and improved with physical therapy! Through physical therapy, your child can learn to support their body with supported posture and build the muscle strength and endurance to hold that posture for much longer stretches of time. If you feel like your child spends a large part of the day slouching when they sit, do not hesitate to call us at KidPT to schedule a free Discovery Visit so that we can screen your child to see if PT is appropriate for them, and if we are a good fit, to help them learn to sit with ease!

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