Furniture design and restrictions on movement are negatively impacting on our health and wellbeing. Here we examine how, why and what we can do about it.
The solutions are often very simple.
We are teaching our children that sitting down for long periods of time is a necessary preparation for adult life. This is especially true of schools, where children are also expected to sit in badly fitting, badly designed furniture.
What is this doing to the developing body and what is this doing to our children's mental health?
Quite naturally, young children want to move around most of the time. When they do this, we often teach them that there is something wrong with them, that they are being badly behaved. In extreme cases we even medicate them.
The environment we live in, plus how we behave in that environment, shapes our bodies.
Our bodies evolved on the grasslands of Africa and for millions of years we pursued a hunter/gatherer existence. Everyday we walked, ran and used our bodies in various ways that utilised a vast range of movements.
Thousands of years ago many human communities began developing agriculture and started to become more and more sedentary. But Since the 18th century and start of the industrial revolution, our lives have changed dramatically.
The present technological revolution began just few decades ago and we move less now than ever before. Much of our lives involves sitting and standing. Even when we do walk, run, cycle, play sport, exercise in the gym, we are usually constricted by shoes, hard, regular surfaces and a repeated, limited range of movements.
Our bodies took more than 500 million years to evolve, emerging slowly to function in a very specific environment. In a very short span of time we have changed that environment almost completely.
Is it any surprise that so many adults and children are suffering from mental health issues, obesity, behavioural problems, addictions, back pain and a range of so-called lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes?
We cannot wait for evolution to catch up with us, it is up to us to now consciously evolve.
We can learn the skills that enable us to thrive rather than just survive
We can choose to modify the modern world and to both create and value human-friendly environments.
This is happening now at Educare Small School.
At Educare we we use The Ready List and encourage as much movement as possible during the school.
To understand more about this topic see below for the full interview with AT Teacher Richard Brennan or the short introduction video also made by The Developing Self. Also reading recommendations can be found below.
At Educare we integrate the principles of Alexander work into the school day.
We also try to maintain a poise-friendly, low-stress environment.
Recently we experimented by removing most of the chairs. This video explains why and shows what happened next!
An interview with Alexander Technique Teacher Richard Brennan, the world expert on the issues concerning human-friendly chairs for children.
"It is as if schools were invented not to educate us, but to teach us to sit still.
By the age of 16 the Anthropocene body has not only been taught to sit still for extended periods, but having done so for so long, the child who went into the education factory limber, supple, energetic and agile comes out the other end with a body possessing a more limited range of motion in many of its joints and limbs. The movement has been lost because of the severe restriction of movement involved in sitting down for such long periods, and has a good dose of obedience inculcated into it too."
Vybarr Cregan-Reid. “Primate Change: How The World We Made is Remaking Us” pp147 – 148. Octopus Publishing Group 2018. eISBN 978-1-78840-108-1
"The frequent consumption of varied movement is what drives essential physiological processes. Movement is not as optional as we have led ourselves to believe. Just as a lack of food (or, heaven forbid, oxygen) leads to a multitude of biological signals and physiological outcomes, people are living in their body-houses surrounded by screaming alarms in the form of pain, illness, and disease, and they are unaware of the source of the problem. You have been doing the movement equivalent of under-eating and under-breathing, which is having an impact on your whole body, right down to the cellular level."
Bowman, Katy (2019). Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement Expanded Edition. Chapter 1: Nutritious Movement and Diseases of Captivity > Page 21 (Kindle Edition). Propriometrics Press. ISBN:978-1-943370-10-8
"Thinking and learning are not all in our head. On the contrary, the body plays an integral part in all our intellectual processes from our earliest moments right through to old age. It is our body’s senses that feed the brain environmental information with which to form an understanding of the world and from which to draw when creating new possibilities. And it is our movements that express knowledge and facilitate greater cognitive function as they increase in complexity. This is the conclusion which neuroscientific research supports in ever richer detail."
‘Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head.’ pp 11– 12 Great Ocean Publishers 1995 ISBN 0-915556-27-8