There’s no denying that things are very different now for kids then when I was a child. While the debate rages on as to whether the advances in technologies are beneficial or detrimental to our kids, one thing I know for sure is that there is an increase in “detrimental” physical issues suffered by our children as a direct result of 21st century technologies and merchandise.
The first and most obvious negative change to children’s bodies comes from vast quantities of time spent being sedentary while assuming poor posture as they type, text, surf, and chat on laptops, tablets and smart phones.
Along with the statistically proven increase in obesity in children due to their increased lack of movement, there are other physical issues such protracted shoulders – a rounding forward of shoulders which causes upper back muscles to carry undue lengthening, while the chest muscles shorten which decrease upper body flexibility and strength.
Traveling downward, there is also a rise in weakened hips and transverse abdominus (muscles running from lower abs around to the delicate lower back region). This postural distortion comes from long periods of sitting with lower back curved and hips and knees stretched forward (like slouching in a sofa).
Both of these poor-postures can cause a myriad of painful issues as our childrens’ bodies grow such as chronic headaches, back aches (between shoulder-blades and lower/sciatic region), and knee pain with reduced strength, speed and ability.
But another postural negative issue recently slapped me in the face when I realized that although I had noticed my daughter’s pronated foot stance for quite some time, it wasn’t until she’d been consistently complaining of foot pain that I realized there was an issue needing correcting. When children (or adults) stand in an uneven manner on their feet, i.e., feet rolling inward (pronation) or outward (supination) not only will their ankles, knees and hips have alignment problems (which causes pain), but their arches will not be supported and their feet will grow incorrectly and suffer from chronic discomfort in and out of shoes.
I now see that many children are suffering from pedi-postural distortions and I blame this on the plethora of cheaply made shoes with little to no arch support (think Toms with their cardboard soles or 90% of the shoes from Payless and Target).
For all of these issues, the solutions are easy to implement, although they will take time and sometimes some money to fix, but the long-term ramifications are positive and well-worth the time and cost. There are corrective exercises for each that I can instruct you on (or you can surf the web), and there are devices that can help in the severe cases (like shoulder trainers or arch-supporting insoles).
Clearly electronics and other devices that have helped cultivate our rampant postural distortions are not going away, but we can still counter-act their negative effects. I suggest you take a look at your kids’ postures head to toe (and yourself too), and get on fixing these issues before they suffer long-term pain and decreased use of joints and muscles.
On the whole, people who are concerned with fitness and their bodies care about their heart, joints, muscles, bones, flexibility, strength, and body fat levels. Almost every body part is fretted over, toned, built, and stretched – every body part that is except the feet. Yet the feet are the gateway to everything we do except for sitting and sleeping.
One of the first things I noticed back when I obtained my first PT certification was the rampant postural distortions of peoples’ feet and how they walked. Millions of people walk in an unstable manner, using only a portion of their feet which results in painful or harmful ramifications throughout their bodies. For example:
If you walk on the outside rim of your feet (supinated) you put strain on the already thin muscles of the ankles which can transfer up into your hips and back.
If you walk tilting your feet inward (pronated) onto the inside or large ball of the big toe, you again can suffer from ankle strain and also can cause series knee pain.
Those who walk almost exclusively up on the balls of their feet (heels rarely touching or bouncing as they walk) can experience tightening of the calves and hamstrings which in turn pull on the lower back as well as painful ball-joint tenderness and swelling.
Finally there is the duck walk or pigeon-toed options (toes pointing at 10 and 2 or inward with heels at 5 and 7) both of which misaligns the hips and can cause sciatic nerve pain and other hip, back and knee issues. (Women in particular tend to duck-walk when wearing super high heels as it eases some of the toe pain.)
For women obsessed with high heels, the ramifications of years of putting all your weight on your toes can result in irreversible foot pain, hammer toes, bunions, and serious knee and back strain. We weren’t meant to have our feet chronically (if ever) in the same position as Barbie dolls – it’s just not good for the body.
So take a look at how you walk. Try to notice if your feet are turned out or in, or where you feel pressure when you take a step. An easy assessment to make is to look at the heels of your shoes – are they worn evenly or on the outer or inner portions only.
If you suffer from foot pain and/or pain radiating up from your feet (ankles, knees, etc.), you might want to spend some time diligently working on walking straight and even – stepping from heel through to toes, feet pointed forward. I would also suggest spending at least 65% of your week in comfortable, arch-supportive, flat (or no more than a 2″ heel) shoes.
In the evening you should kneed your feet with your knuckles massaging your heels, arches, balls of the feet, and even your toes (or get a loved one to give you a well-deserved foot massage). Then spend a few minutes seated while holding your legs out and pointing your toes into a tight stretch (like ballerina feet) and then alternating with flexed feet (heels down toes up) again holding for a tight stretch.
The feet are really the most essential body part to daily living aside from your brain and heart. Do not neglect or abuse them. You’ve only got two and if they get ruined, you’re chair-bound!