Much news has been brought to our attention regarding the negative effects prolonged periods of sitting has on our health, and in light of the ever-growing number of desk jobs, the issue and its solutions are typically presented toward the working professionals. From the potential risks, like obesity and cancer, to prevention strategies, like taking breaks, going for frequent walks, and incorporating desk exercises and stretches — not to mention the many new alternatives to the standard desk chair, like standing desks and fitness balls — it’s hopefully only a matter of time before we begin to see some positive outcomes. But what about the kids?
Long before desk jobs became concerning, kids were sitting for most of the day at desks as they learned. And they still are.
Angela Hanscom, 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, weighed in on the subject back in 2014:
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.Please keep in mind that there is a lot of controversy surrounding ADHD, to learn more about that, you can check out some of these CE articles:
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.
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Her words make me recall my own time as a college student. I had signed up for a four-hour class that would meet once a week, as opposed to breaking it up into two-hour increments that met twice a week. The option to just get a class out of the way and free up other days of the week for me to do with as I pleased was appealing, but the tactic soon proved detrimental. With only one break after hour two of each class session, I could barely maintain my attention. I would doodle, daydream, and play mind games to make the time pass quicker. My brain and my body were numb from being so stagnant for so long. It was a physical and mental setback. I barely remember the lectures, and am unsure if I took anything positive or educational away from the course as a whole.
I always wondered how our teacher put up with us. I’d look around and see a bunch of fidgeting, unfocused college kids. Surely the teacher saw it too, but he would continue on talking, ignoring his very palpable reality of being ignored.
It’s nice to see teachers taking a stand, however; to see them do more than just agree that sitting for so long is neither right nor helpful and instead come up with solutions. Forcing students to sit for such long periods wastes the time of everyone involved.
Bethany Lambeth from Wake County is one of those people. The math teacher had tried everything to stop kids from fidgeting, but nothing seemed to work, so this year, she decided to try out something seemingly outlandish: She convinced a private donor to fit a cycling machine under every desk in her class in hopes that it would help kids focus on their equations.
The good news? It seems to be working.
“I think the world is changing a lot and the kids need to be able to do something different,” she explained. “What we’ve been doing is not necessarily working.”
“Before, they were drumming on their desks, they were touching other people, they don’t do that anymore. Their feet are getting the movement out. There has been a huge increase in the quality of our student’s work and a decrease in the amount of missing work.”
“(The kids) are not picking on each other, they are not needing to walk around, they are not needing to go explore, they are able to get their activity out and get their work done.”
It seems her students like the solution, too. “It keeps me exercising and focused,” one student noted.
Another student, who pedalled 5.5 miles and burned 133 calories before 10 a.m., said: “I’m a really energetic person, so this takes all my energy out.”
Coming in at $150 per machine, the school officials agree that it’s a small price to pay, and would like to see if the tactic proves useful in Special Education classes.
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