Standing vs. Sitting—For Kids

Part 3: Kids need standing desks at school

So far in this series, we’ve covered how standing and moving more than sitting helps children maintain good overall health and how it helps them achieve more in their academics.

In addition to having our own children spend more time standing and moving while at home, we can also make a difference in the health of our communities by encouraging more standing and moving at school.

Last year, we started working with a couple of 4th grade classes at a school in our community to begin introducing standing desks. Our hope is to set up an ideal movement enriched classroom in each, depending on the needs of the teacher. The movement-enriched classrooms will benefit the kids using them, and also help educate parents. The education for adults will help raise awareness and funds for communities and families who can’t afford standing desks for their kids.

A movement enriched classroom doesn’t necessarily mean only standing desks. There are other options like standing tables, seated cushions and wobble chairs. We also love the idea of floor space so the kids have a chance to sit cross-legged to open up their hip joints and engage their stability muscles by getting up and down from the floor. There are also stools they can use at the standing desks but we have heard that after a couple of weeks, most of the kids don’t want to use them.

We’re certainly not the first ones to introduce standing desks in the classroom. There is a school in Marin County, California, who was able to switch their entire school over to standing desks and had some very cool results with this. The kids actually really like it. We have some friends who recently moved to there from San Francisco, and are thrilled with the school. The mom has noticed that her son is just not wired to sit all day long, and his new school is a welcome change.

Here in our neighborhood, we only have one desk in each of the 4th grade rooms so far. The kids are already grateful, and have made us the sweetest cards and a couple of them have openly thanked us in the hall at school. And that is just for bringing one desk into their classroom. We even had about six boys come out and help us put the desks together outside the class. Children are so dynamic, and they know what their bodies need. It is a big goal to get standing desks in every classroom in our community, but we are looking forward to supporting one room at a time. We know this will be a long term project, but the gratitude we receive from the children keeps us motivated.

We have a few fundraising ideas as this work continues. We will keep everybody posted, so be sure to follow our Facebook page and check our blog for regular updates!

Standing vs. Sitting—For Kids

Part 2: Standing helps kids in their academics

As we covered in Part 1 of this series, standing and moving more than sitting is as important for kids health as it is for adults. One of the many ways that standing and moving keeps kids healthy is by helping maintain alignment through the spine, which keeps movement flowing through the nervous system. As you might expect, this alignment can greatly benefit both cognitive and physical function in children, which helps them learn.

Research has shown that standing creates 12% more mental engagement in the classroom, which equates to more than an extra hour per day. Research has also shown that kids with ADHD cannot process information and learn without moving. What this means is that sitting still in the classroom is affecting our kids’ ability to learn.

In addition to mental engagement, standing and moving helps kids function physically in ways that help their academics. Some educators have noticed that kids have better handwriting when they stand, because their core muscles are more engaged. Proximal stability (core) creates more distal (hands) mobility. So, when the core muscles are engaged the hands and wrists are more flexible for movement through writing.

Unfortunately, kids are spending 6-7 hours a day in school, sitting much of the time. Plus, they spend time to and from school, meal times, homework and screen time. This can add up to approximately 85% of their time sitting per day. 41.7% of high schoolers report that they use computers three hours a day outside of school time for recreation. This is up from 31.1% in 2011. That is three additional hours of non-required sitting for these kids. It is also three hours less of potential physical activity.

As we talked about in the Standing vs Sitting series, standing burns up to 90 thousand more calories per year. This can make a huge difference in the physical wellness of our children. School time combined with the sitting recreation time is adding up to kids being overweight and even obese. In 10–17-year-olds, the combined childhood overweight and obesity rate is between approximately 20%–38% (NSCH 2016). This is way too high! And it is much higher than it was just a generation ago. If a simple change from sitting to standing can make such a big impact, it is worth giving it a try.

So if you have kiddos of your own, encourage them to spend more time standing and being active when they’re not at school. Go for more walks, spend time together outside, stand while you read a book—it will benefit the whole family!

As for encouraging more standing and movement in the classroom, stay tuned for Part 3 to hear our ideas and how we’ve begun to help the schools in our community.

Standing vs. Sitting—For Kids

Part 1: standing more than sitting is important for kids’ health

“Every single thing our bodies do requires movement—initiated by our musculoskeletal system—to be performed with ease. Digestion, immunity, reproduction—all of these functions require us to move. You can eat the perfect diet, sleep eight hours a night, and use only baking soda and vinegar to clean your house, but without the loads created by natural movement, all of these worthy efforts are thwarted on a cellular level, and your optimal wellness level remains elusive.” ― Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement

Our bodies were designed for movement. From the time we’re born, our bodies are constantly adapting to become more efficient in their environment. What we spend time doing, our bodies learn. What we don’t use, we lose. Especially as children, when our bones and brains are growing at a rapid rate, we begin to create habits with our postures and activities. A posture that becomes efficient at sitting, is not going to be efficient at movement. As we covered in this past summer’s seven-part blog series on standing vs. sitting, spending too much time in a seated position can have all kinds of negative effects on our bodies. This goes for our kids too.

We have noticed that kids as young as seven, about halfway through the first grade, are beginning to show a decrease in the range of motion in the lumbar spine and hips. Even for active kids with very little screen time, it can be difficult to ensure enough movement during the school year. But so many hours of sitting in chairs can already damage body mechanics at a very young age.

Standing is the gateway to movement—that is why it is important to get the kids out of chairs and in an upright position as much as possible, so they can develop the correct postural and stability muscles to support them. Even allowing kids to sit on the floor, couch or chairs in a cross-legged position to open the hip joints is a better option. Kids (and grown-ups!) should avoid sitting with legs hanging as much as possible.

We’ll talk more in a future post about what classrooms can do to provide other options besides sitting. For now, just remember, get those kids up on their feet and moving around as much as possible! And stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of Standing vs. Sitting—For Kids!

Stress Reduction with Chiropractic

Dave and I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic chiropractic conference over the weekend. The overlying theme across every speaker’s topic was the effects of stress on the body. I have been in the chiropractic profession for 26 years (yikes! I am getting old), and this was the first conference I have attended with a common theme beyond subluxation to the spine. We are really excited to share some of the amazing research coming out about how an adjustment helps trigger the receptors in the brain to help promote relaxation in the body.

The sympathetic nervous system controls all muscle tone in the body. The more stressed out you are, the tighter your muscles are going to be. A chiropractic adjustment fires off mechano-receptors (joint nerves) that help to turn off the sympathetic nervous system. This allows you to have better movement and a sense of ease. (Winsor/Korr)

This is such good news!

One of the things that Dave and I talk about is that it doesn’t matter how amazing and organic your food and supplements are if your central nervous system is not healthy. If your nerves are in a constant state of stress, none of those amazing nutrients will be utilized correctly. Fortunately, a chiropractic adjustment can help your nervous system get back in line and functioning properly (see quote above). So when you come in for your adjustments, please tell us about your stress levels so we can work together to come up with a plan.

Our biggest goal for our family this year is to simplify our life where we can, and practice more relaxation and joy. Dave and I are going to start our personal stress reduction plan by getting adjusted more. And now that Jack is a little older, he has become quite direct about when and where he needs to be adjusted. I love how kids know when there is stress in their spine! Many of the kids we have been seeing in our office for years now tell their parents when their spine needs an adjustment. (A couple of those kids are even old enough to drive themselves to their adjustments. Whoa!) Both kids and adults benefit from chiropractic care by learning positive ways to reduce stress and nurture their bodies.

Over the years, our practice community has become our family. You have all brought so much joy and laughter into our office over the past 14 years. Let’s keep the party going and make it even better by reducing our stress, supporting each other and getting adjusted!

 –Dr. Heather

7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #7

Standing helps keep nutrients moving through the body and to the brain

Sitting decreases the movement necessary for spinal discs pumping nutrients and expelling waste

Dr. Heather:

The only way discs of the spine can get nutrients is through a process called imbibition, which is a pumping action that only occurs with movement. This movement is largely restricted when in a sitting position. Our bodies were designed for movement, and movement is essential for keeping the brain-body connection strong. Here are some examples:

• When muscles lengthen and contract, it forces blood through the veins and back towards the heart. Sitting or staying still in the same position can slow this flow down.

• Sitting can put a kink in the aorta (largest artery of the body), this can create turbulence in the area which can cause plaguing over time.

• Every nerve needs fuel, oxygen and activation in order to survive, most of us probably do not have a problem with the first two but we all can use help with the last one. We activate large portions of our brain through movement. That activation is called proprioception. Proprioception is the brain’s awareness of where a joint is. When our bodies are in motion, the mechanoceptors, muscle spindles and golgi tendons sense the rate of movement in the joint and send that information to the brain. These proprioceptors stimulate the brain and help block pain signals.

If that’s not enough, here are the other reason we’ve already covered about the benefits of standing and moving:
• Standing keeps your joints healthy.
• Standing helps prevent injuries.
• Standing decreases compression on spinal discs.
• Standing burns calories.
• Standing maintains stability in hip joints.
• Standing prevents neck tension and keeps shoulders stable.

Dr. Dave:

I think we can safely conclude that sitting is on its way out. Standing is the future of the work environment. So get used to it. Better yet, reach out to your employer or HR department and ask for a standing desk. It never hurts to ask, but it may send your spine, brain and heart into a never ending downward spiral of disease and decay if you don’t. Hey, it’s possible. Just remember sitting will slow down your body, and standing will help you get moving and stay healthy.

So who else spends the majority of the day sitting? How about your kiddos? As these little critters head back to their classrooms this fall, think how much they are required to sit each day. Then add the time they sit with screen time, homework and reading. That’s a lot of sitting! Some schools are starting to add standing tables and standing desks to the classroom. Sadly, not enough and the process is slow. The dilemma is worse for kids also. Kids bodies are very adaptable and not yet fully developed. Their brains still have to undergo two more massive “pruning stages” where the brain clips unused connections to make it more efficient. If they don’t use all those movement nerves they may have a harder time later in life learning new movements such as dance, sports or martial arts. Kids have to move early and often. Changes in how a kid runs can be seen as early as first grade! We have to encourage our kids to get up and get outside. If they have to sit at school, you better make sure they are getting that movement at home after school and on the weekends.

In our next series we will cover more about the benefits of standing for our children. There are so many more reasons to get those kidlets up and moving and playing outside. Thanks for reading and make sure to share this with someone!

7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #6

Standing prevents neck tension and keeps shoulders stable

Sitting causes pulling and tension through the neck and shoulders

For many people who spend a lot of time working at computers, muscle tension and pain in the neck and upper body are a common problem. In this post, Dr. Dave and Dr. Heather explain some of the mechanics of why this happens, and how we can help prevent the problem.

Dr. Dave:

Your neck, shoulders, and upper back are one functional unit. You cannot separate neck issues from upper back or shoulder issues. Your shoulder blades are the key that holds these three areas together. There are extensive muscle connections between your shoulder blades, neck, upper back, and shoulders. Because of this, if you lose stability of the shoulder blades, you lose it in all of the above areas.

A stable shoulder blade stays down and lives close to the spine. Sitting at a computer encourages the shoulder blades to move away from the spine, while using a keyboard and mouse encourages an upward slip of the shoulder blade. This creates instability of the neck, upper back and shoulders, creating an environment that increases the risk of injury to these areas. If you have knots in your shoulders or that knot behind the shoulder blade, you may have shoulder blade instability. Those “stress knots” may actually be instability knots.

Another crucial reason to maintain stability in your shoulder blades and mid-back region: your mid-back also has to move in order to breathe. When you inhale and exhale, your ribcage lifts up and down and moves in and out. When the mid-back gets stuck, it can compromise your ability to breathe.

Dr. Heather:

The mid-back, or thoracic region, is the naturally the most mobile region of the spine. Poor body mechanics caused by sitting and lack of motion causes restriction in the thoracic area. Over time, this process can cause instability in the neck and low back area, also changing the natural curves that help distribute the weight of the head over the bones of the neck. When the C-shape curve in the neck starts to straighten over time, it causes pulling and tension from the weight of the head hanging off the neck muscles instead of sitting atop the bones, and this tension affects everything all the way down the spine. The mid-back especially becomes restricted, and the shoulders become unstable.

What we can do to help our neck, upper back, shoulders, and mid-back stay stable is stand as much as possible, especially while we are working. Taking frequent breaks from computer work is also essential to keeping our spines moving and resisting getting stuck in forward-leaning typing positions. The first step is simply being aware of what our bodies are doing so that we can know when to correct it.

Stay standing, get moving, and stay tuned for the very last post in this seven-part series. Next week we’ll conclude with a discussion of how standing and movement help keep the nutrients flowing through your body and to your brain.

7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #5

by Dr. David Sloan, D.C., DIBCN, FIACN and Dr. Heather Sloan, D.C.

Standing maintains stability in the hip joints

Sitting pulls the psoas muscle and causes tension in the lumbar spine

Dr. Heather:

The damaging body mechanic process that occurs with sitting is tension in the psoas muscle, one of the major hip flexor muscles that connect the upper and lower body. When seated, the psoas muscle pulls and causes tension and restriction in the lumbar spine. This process can create instability in the hip joints which also leads to knee problems, tight calves and restriction in the ankles. And that is just in the lower body. One thing people can do is stand up more than they sit down. Another thing that helps is sitting in a cross-legged position to open hip joints. When possible, sit on the floor, couch or chairs in this position, rather than with legs hanging.

Dr. Dave:

The hip joints need to bend (flex and extend), move in and out (abduct and adduct) and rotate. All of these actions should be free and easy. When one of these movements is held for a majority of the time (usually flexion) it is at the detriment of the other movements.

Rotation in particular is necessary for stability. We will go into this in depth in a future post. If you lose the ability to rotate, you cannot stabilize your hips. This causes muscle substitutions. You will overuse the muscles that flex and extend in exchange for rotation. Unfortunately, this leads to increased joint compression and decreased range of motion. Just like the discs of your spine [link to 3rd post], all of the joints of your body require movement to move nutrition in and waste out of the joints. Lack of movement, lack of nutrition, and increased joint compression will lead to increased wear and tear and eventually arthritis.

So, let’s make sure we’re keeping our hip joints moving by taking regular breaks, standing when we can, and not keeping our muscles in one position for too long. That way, we’ll be able to move our hips in all the ways they’re supposed to move and maintain stability. We’ll see next week how this concept applies to our upper body as well as our lower. Stay tuned!

7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #4

by Dr. David Sloan, D.C., DIBCN, FIACN and Dr. Heather Sloan, D.C.

Standing burns calories

Here’s the reason you’ve all been waiting for. That’s right, folks! Standing can help you lose weight! Specifically, standing burns a lot more calories than sitting. How much more? Let’s let Dr. Heather and Dr. Dave give us the facts:

Dr. Heather and Dr. Dave:

A muscle needs to contract and lengthen in order to function. When our muscles move, they use up energy (calories). But muscles aren’t the only things that burn calories. 20% of the calories you burn during the day are burned by your brain. The more your brain works, the more calories you burn. Movement stimulates the motor (or movement) centers of your brain as well as the balance and coordination areas.

During the process of our bodies moving, we burn calories not only in our muscles, but also by sending immense amounts of information into the brain. Swap sitting 8 hours a day for standing and you will burn 90,000 more calories per year. That’s about the same as running 30 marathons (and way easier)!

Since our bodies work on the “use it or lose it” principle, we want to use all of our brain and all of our body. By having a wide variety of movement, we activate our brains in a wide variety of ways. As we keep our bodies healthy and moving, we likewise keep our brains active and healthy. But all this activation doesn’t happen when you are stuck in a seated position. So we’ll say it again: you need to move!

We hope you’ve been enjoying this series, and have been learning a lot about how our bodies and brains interact in seated and standing positions. Let us know if you have any questions or comments about what you’ve learned so far by posting on our Facebook page. Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s topic, where we’ll be talking specifically about keeping stability in our hips and lower back.

7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #3

by Dr. David Sloan, D.C., DIBCN, FIACN and Dr. Heather Sloan, D.C.

Standing decreases compression on spinal discs

As a reminder, this is part three in a seven-part series about the health advantages of standing for more time than we sit. In part one, we explained how standing helps keep joints healthy, and in part two, we talked about how it can help prevent injuries. Our next topic here, is about how sitting, standing, and moving affect our spinal discs.

Dr. Dave offers some insight:

The discs of the spine are made of the same material as your muscle tendons and ligaments. They are designed to connect one vertebra to another while allowing for the most possible movement. One of the differences between a disc and a ligament is that the disc is filled with a jelly-like substance called the nucleus. This squishy nucleus allows for more movement in the spine.

Another unique feature of discs is that they only have blood flow to the outside. There are no veins or arteries that penetrate to the nucleus area. The only way nutrition can get to the inner portion of the disc is through movement. “Imbibition” is the pumping-like action that moves nutrition in and waste out. This only occurs when the disc is moving.

Certain postures create different loads or pressure on the discs. For this reason, we need to change our body positions often. If we stay in one posture too long, it can put too much pressure on certain discs. Lack of movement leads to the nucleus drying out and the outside of the disc becoming more brittle and cracking. These cracks can then lead to the disc bulging and eventually herniating. That means the nucleus squirts out the disc like raspberry jelly from a doughnut! Yuck!

Your discs need movement to survive. When you walk, bend, twist and squat (yes you should squat, and yes that is a really awkward word—“squat”—go ahead, say it out loud), you pump the disc (and joints) to deliver nutrients and get rid of the garbage. Without movement, the garbage piles up, the discs (and joint cartilage) become depleted and they wear out. “But I take glucosamine” I can hear you cry. Well done. But how do you ever expect to get it were it needs to go? Dude. You need to move.

Get ready for an exciting post next time about how standing helps you burn calories (spoiler alert: standing burns a LOT more calories than sitting!).

7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #2

by Dr. David Sloan, D.C., DIBCN, FIACN and Dr. Heather Sloan, D.C.

Standing helps prevent injuries

Sitting weakens muscles necessary for playing sports and enjoying active hobbies

Part two of our seven-part series gives us another reason why we should be standing more than we are sitting. In part one, we talked about how standing helps keep our joints healthy, while sitting for long periods of time can cause our muscles to shorten and put pressure on our joints. With shortened muscles, and weakened joints, our bodies have trouble staying active and are more prone to injury. Dr. Heather and Dr. Dave explain more:

Dr. Heather:

Dr. Dave and I have noticed that the musculoskeletal system seems to give out in our society before the cardiovascular system. Many of our patients have the cardiovascular health to run and do sports but their musculoskeletal system is too damaged to allow the freedom of movement. Core body mechanic issues we see in our office result from sitting, regardless of the mechanism of injury that brings them into our office. We even see youth in our office come in with hip and knee pain and instability, because they are lacking the strength in their intrinsic muscles to prevent injuries. This can lead to what we call “the burned out athlete” who can no longer play sports in their 30’s and 40’s because of pain and poor body mechanics. I have patients tell me they feel old at 40. 40 is not old but the sedentary lifestyle we are all trapped in is aging people prematurely.

Dr. Dave:

Any posture shortens some muscles and lengthens the opposing muscle group. If this is held for a prolonged period of time, these postures are memorized and become preferable to other postures and makes movement more difficult due to this imbalance. This imbalance or asymmetry increases your risk of injury. In a sitting position, your hip flexor becomes shortened. As you stand, tight hip flexors increase the work the low back muscles have to do as they work to stabilize the spine against the pull of the flexors. If the hip flexors are too tight, they will overwhelm the low back muscles and you may injure the low back.

So to help keep injuries at bay, get on those feet and keep those muscles moving! And keep an eye out for next week’s post, where we’ll be learning about our spinal discs and how standing and movement help us keep them healthy.


© Copyright 2011 Sloan Family Chiropractic
911 5th Ave. E. Suite 202 - 360-956-3900