Why rocking kneel-chairs help your kids studying and improve your health?
The Best Thing For Your Back Is This Chair
Three reasons you’ll want to ditch your standing desk
BY BEN RADDINGMarch 9, 2017
DAVE KING, ANDY CRAWFORD, STEVE GORTON / GETTY IMAGES
Anyone who has an office job can relate: You sit for hours on end, staring at your screen, and then stand up to a slumped posture or even back pain. That’s not too surprising. According to the Arthritis Disease Center, an estimated 50 to 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, often due to poor posture. Because of our sitting-all-day lifestyle, bad posture is endemic to the American workforce.
But one solution—the standing desk—doesn’t sit well with some folks, and studies show that being upright all day can lead to long-term fatigue. So what’s an office worker to do?
Enter (or rather, re-enter) a new trend in ergonomic chairs. Originally designed by a Norwegian in the late ‘70s and dubbed the Balans chair (that’s Dutch for “balance”), kneeling chairs can provide a number of benefits for workers who need a boost in their back. This could just be the Goldilocks solution you’ve been searching for.
END LOWER BACK PAIN
Back pain—especially lower back pain—is no joke. According to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. Costs associated with lower back pain in the United States exceed $100 billion.
“People can develop lower back pain for a variety of reasons,” says Jay Greenstein, DC, of Sport & Spine Rehab. “It could be chronic, repetitive stress or postural issues. It could be an acute trauma like a sports injury or a car accident or a slip or a fall. There are many different causes of lower back pain.”
When it comes to back pain and posture, says Greenstein, we should be thinking of our spines as layers of “bricks and jelly donuts”: The vertebral bodies are the bricks, and the discs are the jelly donuts. When those bricks and donuts curve in an unusual way—say, slumped in front of a desk—it leads to pain and inflammation over time. With so much compression over time, you might end up even slipping a disc, which is when the jelly in the donut bursts.
Kneeling chairs are designed to create a pelvic shift that forces the lower back to arch. “You can decrease pressure on what's called the facet joint,” the joints in your spine that make your back flexible, says Greenstein. Decreasing pressure on that joint relieves it of pain. “A kneeling chair [is designed] to maintain the the natural curve in the lower back, which can potentially help patients who have lower back pain.”
Indeed, a 2015 study showed that a kneeling chair can help people with back pain reduce lumbar lordosis—the inward curve of the lower back, which contributes to a lot of back pain—versus a regular office chair.
PROP UP POOR POSTURE
Standing tall leads to more than just joint pain relief. A good power posture, tall and confident, can affect how we behave subconsciously. For example, one study showed that people who had a tall posture were more confident and more likely to feel in control. Another study from 2009 showed that those with good posture were more likely to think more positively of themselves. If these reasons aren’t good enough to seek out a better posture, then maybe your health is.
“Maintaining good posture is critically important to good spinal health. It’s also important for the public to understand is that once a disc herniates, or a disc degenerates, you can't regenerate it,” says Greenstein.
Managing your posture on a day-to-day basis is critically important. Typical office chairs have you sit at a 90-degree angle, which puts pressure on your spine, curves it, and causes you to slump. Kneeling chairs work by making you sit at about a 20-degree slant so that you sit more upright. According to a 2008 study in Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, ergonomic kneeling chairs set at 20 degrees (or more) inclination can maintain standing lumbar curvature—your posture—to a greater extent than sitting on a standard computer chair. And further research has shown that practicing good posture while seated can improve your standing posture, as it trains your back and core muscle to support your skeleton in the correct way.
“You're putting the most pressure on your spine when you sit,” says Steven Conway, DC, who serves on the Board of Directors of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE). “Laying down is the best, standing up [is second best]. But, when you sit there's the most compression.” Kneeling chairs are meant to lessen that compression, evening out the donuts and disks.
“A lot of regular chairs, when you're sitting, people would slump or they would be static,” Conway continues. “So what happens with these kneeling chairs was it actually changes your posture. You could go to this chair, lean forward, and it changes all the structure of your lower back and the angles and the pressure. And a lot of people feel good doing it.”
Conway points out, though, that without proper cushioning, your knees could end up feeling pretty sore. He encourages people with kneeling chair to get up fairly often, which gives your knees a break if they’re sore, and taking a break encourages movement. Consistent movement is one of the ways lessen the impact of poor posture at your desk.
EMBRACE YOUR CORE
Part of how kneeling chairs work is by engaging your core as you sit. Kneeling chairs can help strengthen your abdominal muscles by forcing you to sit more upright, making your abs activate more to keep your spine stable. It’s commonly referred to as “active sitting.”
“If your core is not activating [as you sit],” says Greenstein, “then all that stress and pressure goes on the ligaments instead of the muscles that are designed to support the spine.”
Indeed, a 2015 survey of several studies found that strengthening the core muscles is more effective in fighting lower back pain than typical resistance training that’s meant to relieve lower back pain. The core and the back are actually much more intertwined than you may think.
“The goal of these chairs is to get the core muscles engaged to stabilize and control the spine in an appropriate posture in order to decrease stress, decrease inflammation, and thus decrease pain,” says Greenstein. “The chairs are designed in order to get that spine into a lumbar lordotic—the inward curving of the lower back—as well as causing the muscles to engage to create stability for the spine so that all the stress is not born by the discs and joints.”
Don’t get too excited: You probably won't end up with a six pack after two weeks with your kneeling chair. But you will end up a stronger core, better posture, and less pain in your lower back.
February 20, 2014
Why Rocking Chairs for Students?
One of the time-tested ways to help children calm from emotional duress (or be able to go to sleep when they are tired and not in the best of moods) is to rock them. The rocking chair has been an essential piece of furniture whenever a baby or young child is in the home. I have memories of my wife rocking my children to sleep. I also remember putting them in a wind-up swing to calm them after a long day of activity. So, why do we stop this calming activity?
Classroom observation proves rocking still works
The rocking chair helps students to self-regulate.
We tend to think the rocking motion is for babies or young children, but if we look at any classroom we witness how children and teenagers find ways to rock themselves. They may lean back in their chairs and rock (which is often corrected by teachers). They may be rocking their legs, feet, hands or fingers. Why do they continue to do so as they grow older?
The rocking motion soothes the brain and facilitates concentration along with the ability to think logically, which provides overall better cognitive processing. Rocking helps students who are experiencing a brain state of high arousal (hypervigilance) to be able to transition to a much more calm brain state to enhance his/her ability to learn and problem-solve.
For this reason, in one of our schools at Lakeside, we are employing the use of student rocking chairs. The rockers can be placed behind a typical student desk. The chairs permit students to rock back and forth slightly while they are in class as they listen, study, or take a test.
The sensation of rocking behind the desk is really less distracting to the rest of the class than other forms of improvised rocking. We help students realize that the rocking is helpful to them to self-regulate their brain state and enhance their ability to learn.
At first the thought of student rocking chairs may seem to be a strange idea that may be annoying to some. However, once it is utilized and other students get used to the motion, it becomes quite normal and predictable.
Imagine entering a classroom and seeing it full of rocking chairs rather than traditional chairs.
Rockers would not only change the appearance of a typical classroom but also increase a student’s ability to have control and predictability regarding how they are feeling, thinking and learning. Moreover, when emotions are in control, so is their brain state. They become better able to hear, understand and practice the knowledge they are gaining from their teacher and classroom process.
Based on what we now know about brain states of our children and teenagers, I envision a day when we will have a good number of rocking chairs in each of our classrooms. It is a very simple and rather inexpensive purchase that I believe will add new dimensions to our students’ capacity to learn and more effectively achieve their academic goals .
Yes, this idea does start with calming babies in the rocking chair but why stop there? Rocking has the same impact to many children even through their school years and even beyond. It is another form of creating more resilience, empowerment and self-regulation in a world that is full of stress and distractions.
This is just basic neuroscience and something every school should consider for their students who can be calmed and more cognitive by constant motion. It could make a huge difference to their success in school and in life.
Rocking chairs in the classroom? Absolutely!
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
October 21, 2014
Why So Many Kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today
In the past few years, we have seen a serious rise in the diagnosis of ADHD for children, according to the Center for Disease Control. This diagnosis in a student’s life forces educators to develop sensitized programs for them in order to help them succeed. Why has this diagnosis increased among our children? In light of my writing about the importance of movement and brain-based interventions in my recent posts, could it be that the lack of body movement could be part of the problem of increased ADHD?
Are you curious about the rise of ADHD diagnoses?
Can more body movement be the answer to classroom inattention and ADHD? (photo courtesy of specialedpost.org)
This post by Angela Hanscom caught my eye.
Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in New England. She suggests another reason more children are being diagnosed with ADHD (whether or not they really have it) might be the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school. This appeared on the TimberNook blog:
A perfect stranger pours her heart out to me over the phone. She complains that her 6-year-old son is unable to sit still in the classroom. The school wants to test him for ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder). This sounds familiar, I think to myself. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’ve noticed that this is a fairly common problem today.
The mother goes on to explain how her son comes home every day with a yellow smiley face. The rest of his class goes home with green smiley faces for good behavior. Every day this child is reminded that his behavior is unacceptable, simply because he can’t sit still for long periods of time.
The mother starts crying. “He is starting to say things like, ‘I hate myself’ and ‘I’m no good at anything.’” This young boy’s self-esteem is plummeting all because he needs to move more often.
Over the past decade, more and more children are being coded as having attention issues and possibly ADHD. A local elementary teacher tells me that at least eight of her twenty-two students have trouble paying attention on a good day. At the same time, children are expected to sit for longer periods of time. In fact, even kindergarteners are being asked to sit for thirty minutes during circle time at some schools.
The problem: children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.
I recently observed a fifth grade classroom as a favor to a teacher. I quietly went in and took a seat towards the back of the classroom. The teacher was reading a book to the children and it was towards the end of the day. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.
This was not a special-needs classroom, but a typical classroom at a popular art-integrated charter school. My first thought was that the children might have been fidgeting because it was the end of the day and they were simply tired. Even though this may have been part of the problem, there was certainly another underlying reason.
We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance. Only one! Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. These children need to move!
Ironically, many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today–due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once-a-week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.
Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”
Fidgeting is a real problem. It is a strong indicator that children are not getting enough movement throughout the day. We need to fix the underlying issue. Recess times need to be extended and kids should be playing outside as soon as they get home from school. Twenty minutes of movement a day is not enough! They need hours of play outdoors in order to establish a healthy sensory system and to support higher-level attention and learning in the classroom.
In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.
I find this article to be quite intriguing and really important for schools, caregivers and parents to think about how they create play environments for children.
Maybe extended play could prevent fidgeting, or even a potential misdiagnosis that could have an impact to the entire educational process of a student. I know that this may not be the only possible cause of ADHD, but it does strongly suggest that we need to encourage our kids to move for extended times in the day. Movement may increase their health due to exercise and the ability to regulate their brains.
I have seen students who are labeled with ADHD respond very positively to body movement. I believe that Ms. Hanscom may be on to something.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network