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The circumstances of modern life have made it rare for children to spend all day playing in the fresh air
Everyday routines of children and youngsters are increasingly sedentary - a development which is having certain effects
The experts say: encourage children's natural urge to move
What can be done about tense back muscles in children - or how can this be prevented in the first place? Experts agree that adequate exercise and the right everyday equipment, utensils and products are two crucial components. Dr. Dieter Breithecker, Managing Director of the BAG (Federal Consortium for Posture and Exercise), recommends that children should be allowed to move or exercise for at least three hours a day. Most children generally have a great urge to move and want to romp, play and run. Parents should support this and encourage their children when they show an interest in sport. Varied exercise that involves the whole body is better than focusing too soon on one particular kind of sport, because the variety gives important impetus for physical, mental and psychic development.
Keeping children active even when seated
However, the actual circumstances in real life are frequently very different, with many children spending hours sitting still every day - at school and over their homework, or in front of their computer, games console and television. Another point is that children's furniture often neglects ergonomic characteristics - a mistake which has serious consequences, a warning also given by Detlef Detjen, General Manager at the AGR (Campaign for Healthier Backs). For years now the association has been dedicated among others to the issue of healthy children's backs and knows how important the right everyday products are for the health development of children. Chairs that move in 3 dimensions promote dynamic sitting and support children's natural urge to move. Positive side effect: their powers of concentration are enhanced at the same time.
The AGR has drawn up a comprehensive catalogue of criteria that children's chairs have to fulfil in order to be awarded the AGR seal of approval for particularly back-friendly products. As well as scope for adapting to different postures and sitting positions, it should also be possible to adjust the chairs to different body sizes. Other requirements are for cushioning, together with ergonomic sitting and leading attributes. AGR-certified children's seats are available for example from Moizi (www.moizi.de), VS Vereinigte Spezialmöbelfabriken (www.vs-moebel.de), aeris (www.aeris.de) and moll (www.moll-funktion.de). They all prove that sitting and moving are not a contradiction in terms.
Desk and chair as a cohesive system
A good chair is a good start, but it is also important for the desk and chair to form a unit. With desks it is important that they can be tilted by at least 16°. This is because a rigid, flat desk top fosters tension in the neck. An AGR-certified children's desk, for example by Moizi, VS or moll, also has an adequately sized working area and is adjustable in height.
The AGR recommends chairs and desks for schools as well as home use. So what would an ideal classroom look like? Dr. Breithecker summarises: adolescents need furniture to fit them. It is also advisable for chairs to have a 3D flexible sitting surface to allow for different positions. What's more, dynamic lessons will work best if children can alternate between sitting and standing.
Back-friendly equipment is important right from the start
Not everyone is aware that the cause of backache can often be found already in infants and toddlers, as baby carriers or prams are often purchased according to the wrong priorities. They should be light and easy to handle, aspects that are practical for the parents but not necessarily good for the children's backs. Products by kiddy (www.kiddy.de) that have been certified by the AGR as being particularly back-friendly demonstrate that easy handling does not necessarily have to jeopardise the children's health.
Whether out and about on a Sunday or when on holiday, the right pram is a must when the youngest member of the family is included in the activities. This makes it all the more important for the pram to be suitable for parents AND child. Preferably it should offer different possible adjustments for changing over between lying down and sitting up; it should be light in weight and offer flexible possibilities for adapting to the age and size of the child. The criteria for an AGR-certified pram also include a clear field of vision with optimum air-conditioning and it should be weatherproof; it should be easy to collapse and fulfil valid safety standards.
Children also travel in cars right from the start - initially in baby carriers fastened pointing backwards. The problem is that conventional baby carriers keep the child in a fixed position with the spinal column curved during the journey. It is much better for car baby carriers to be adjusted to a lying position. The AGR seal of approval has been awarded to baby carriers by kiddy that change position quickly and easily. Child car seats are indispensable for children aged from 9 months to 12 years. Car seats bearing the AGR seal of approval are available from kiddy for various age and weight classes.
Healthy sleep for babies and toddlers: it's the mattress that counts
Adults spend about one third of their lives asleep, whereas babies and toddlers sleep for about 12 to 16 hours each day which is much longer. The right mattress for babies is a crucial factor for healthy development of the back right from the start. Mattresses with the AGR seal of approval by ALVI - Alfred Viehhofer GmbH & Co. KG (www.alvi.de) take special account of the needs of babies and toddlers. The mattresses may not be too soft but must still adapt to the child's profile despite the minimum body weight. Duo mattresses with a softer baby side and a firmer child side are a practical idea. It is also very important for the mattress to have a clever ventilation system. The mattress frame should also have hard edges as an extra safety feature so that little feet cannot get stuck between the mattress and the bed frame.
Children's shoes for healthy feet right from the start
The wrong shoes not only affect the feet and legs but are detrimental to the child's whole posture and can even cause backache. Incorrect posture must be prevented particularly in children who are still growing. Comfortable, correctly fitting shoes are an important prerequisite. Children's shoes by chung shi (www.chung-shi.de) have been awarded the AGR seal of approval "certified & recommended". They adapt to the foot in width and height as well as length. They also have a flexible sole - this gives the foot enough room to move without detrimental effects on posture and on the spinal column. The AGR emphasises that babies and toddlers do not need to wear sturdy shoes - it's best to learn to walk barefoot.
Backache is not a symptom of old age - children are also increasingly affected. Regular exercise and the right everyday products are the best way to prevent back problems. Children and youngsters who sit at lot at home and at school can compensate this with active chairs and furniture. When choosing children's shoes, it is important that they are comfortable and fit well in order to prevent incorrect posture. Back-friendly products are also important for babies and toddlers. The use of mattresses, prams, baby carriers and car seats with the AGR seal of approval can prevent back problems in later life.
Über AGR e.V.
The Campaign for Healthier Backs has been dedicated to the prevention and therapy of endemic backache for 20 years. Its "certified & recommended" seal of approval is an important decision-making aid for consumers. Particularly back-friendly everyday products can be certified with the seal of approval by independent medical bodies.
Together with the BAG e. V. (Federal Consortium for Posture and Exercise), the AGR has launched the initiative "Campaign for Healthier Children's Backs". It looks at the healthy development of children and youngsters combined with information activities about the importance of sufficient exercise and ergonomic everyday products.
More information materials and a list of current brochures and books can be found online at: www.agr-ev.de/patientenmedien.