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Distance learning: protect students' bodies during hours of sitting

As you parents and children/teens experienced firsthand from March to May, kids are having more screen time than they have ever had or wanted to have. Now it's September, school is starting and we are back at it for the foreseeable future.

Let's face the facts, kids are growing and that means their spines and bodies are as well. If they are left for 8+ hours in a chair and then go play video games or watch Netflix for 3+ hours, you can only imagine the outcome of their posture. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that all of this time in a seated position will force you to adapt to that position.

Of course, some parents are savvy enough to invest in a stand-up desk. But just yesterday, one of my client's teenage daughters refuted the notion of using it!

She said in my treatment room, "Mom, I nooooot going to stand for a whole hour during a Zoom class." This brief conversation inspired me to write this guide for my parent and young clients as well as anyone else who may be interested in keeping their bodies healthy during this crazy time.

As a preventative minded therapist, I believe the road diverges now. The habits developed as a child/adolescent really stick with you through adulthood. So it's best to establish good habits as early as possible.

Because there's so much information, I am breaking this up into two blogs. So stay tuned next week for even more tips! With that being said, I'm starting off with what NOT to do.

What not to do at home (and how to fix it):

Let's examine the possible consequences of being at home on a small screen (tablet or laptop). This applies not just to kids doing distance learning, but to all of you adults telecommuting as well!

1. Allow Eye Strain

When you're constantly staring at a bright screen, your eyes have to work harder and harder to keep everything in focus. It's like driving over a rocky road: you can imagine how your shocks would break down faster if you're always on a rough surface. Well it's the same for the stability muscles in the eyes. So do yourself a favor and invest in good blue light glasses. My favorite are these Gunnar glasses. Or you can install an app that reduces the blue light on your screen like Flux. This will save you or your child from chronic headaches and inflammation to the head, face and sinuses.

If you've already given blue light glasses or apps a try and notice there are still symptoms of eye strain, it may be worth it to get tested for Trigeminal Dysphoria, in which case Prism glasses are the way to go. You can find more information about that here.

2. Working in a Poor Desk/Workstation Setup

Working at the kitchen table or on a barstool might be ok for an hour or two, but all day every day can be very hard on the body. I don't think I need to go too far into why this is bad. Find a place that you or your child can set up a good workstation that allows for a proper chair. You can watch our videos on workstation setup below. You can also find our favorite products to create a great at-home workstation here.

3. Bad Habits

Bad habits like poor sitting and standing posture, especially sitting funny for crossing your legs in your chair can be very hazardous long term. Remember how you heard your mom say if you hold your face in a funny position for too long it'll stick? This is something parents say to kids to scare them into better behavior, but there is some truth to it.

Standing in a funky way can be just as bad. If you're standing for an extended period of time in sandals or flip flops, you can fatigue your back and the arches of your feet.

4. Not Moving Enough

Too much of anything isn't good for you. So if you choose to sit, make sure you're taking breaks to stand and walk around. If you're standing, be sure to sit down and rest every now and again. Get those 10,000 steps in daily! Take a walk while you're on a conference call or during lunch. If you can't get all of those steps in, 30 minutes of mild to moderate activity is great for the heart. Try walking up and down your stairs while on your lunch!

Next week I'll dive into more exercises to save your kids' bodies during distance learning as well as more tips for efficient sitting!

Remember, we heal smarter, not harder!

Dr. Justin C. Lin

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