15 Jan Healthy Movement for a Healthy Life
What is “healthy” movement?
Well, humans are programmed to move. A young developing brain requires various types of motion to develop important foundational skills for learning. The sensory systems that respond to movement help coordinate the eyes, hands and body for everyday fine motor and gross motor activities. “Healthy” movement refers to safe and accessible opportunities for motion that help everyone feel organized, alert, fit and ready to learn.
What is the role of “healthy movement” in a classroom?
Parents and adults tend to want children to “sit still.” The reality is no one sits without moving for very long, because if we keep our bodies completely inactive, we tend to fall asleep or zone out. Dynamic sitting involves making adjustments to our position for comfort and moving our arms, legs, and body while we are sitting, in order to keep ourselves alert and engaged. Children who have access to healthy movement in the classroom are more likely to stay engaged and to have better attention and behavior.
If children have chairs that move at school, won’t they be disruptive?
Children are already moving in their chairs because they need movement to stay alert. In stable or static chairs many children will tend to tilt backwards, lean forward, swing their legs and sit on the edge of their chairs or on their knees. Studies have shown that after about a 2 week “settling in” period, children with access to chairs that provide healthy movement only move as needed to stay comfortable and to attend to the lessons throughout the day. In fact, several studies suggest that children show better ability to stay seated, with less disruptive movements, when they have access to chairs that offer healthy movement.
Sensory integration refers to the way in which people process sensation to understand and interact with the world around them. The following key points highlight how sensory integration concepts guide much of Virco’s work in the area of healthy movement:
- We are all affected by our sensory environments, and sensory experiences can both support and disrupt our ability to function optimally.
- Good sitting posture requires supports; opportunities for standing, stretching and “heavy work” (such as moving furniture or pressing on a chair back or footrest) are often calming and organizing.
- “Sitting still” does not equal paying attention; a child who has the opportunity for dynamic seating is more likely to stay engaged.
- Mounting research data shows that the environment, including classroom furniture, can improve behavior and attention for all students, not only those with special needs.
- To be most successful, teachers will need education and support to understand how “healthy movement” can support learning and attention, and to be prepared to manage the “settling in” period of about 2 weeks.
- More is not necessarily better when we think about sensation; every person has their own sensory needs and tolerances. We can help people to feel understood and accepted by understanding and respecting these individual differences.