In the last few weeks, we have been asked to visit the Emory campus during finals to massage the students. And although you would expect the population to be stressed, it’s amazing not only how stressed they are, but how affected their bodies are by poor ergonomics and stress at such a young age. I see them creating the regular patterns of highly intelligent type A personalities: work long and hard, no breaks, bad postures, high stress. I was curious to see just how far these patterns began, and so, asked one of my friends who has a 10 year old daughter to wear a fit bit and track movement. From the results, I soon saw that the work Atlanta Mobile Massage and Wellness would need to provide not preventative education and treatment, but rehabilitative work across the board.
This young child had her Fitbit buzz at least twice a day urging her to get up and move. It would stay in the red zone, the zone that indicates over-sitting and lack of movement, for about an hour over the suggested time. Not only that, but as a highly competitive child, she was often found hunched over a book or a computer. And this has become the norm. From even younger children who are handed phones or iPad for entertainment, mobile babysitters, to the highly professional, we are negatively changing our bodies and our minds. And if these negative patterns begin at such a young age, it is a major challenge to change them. I have found while observing young children, hours will go by and the child will not put down their iPad. Sometimes they will be at a park or an event, at a dinner or a social gathering, and not even glance up from the screen. And in correlation, professionals do the exact same thing; they do not know to move away from their computer and take breaks. Today, on average, children spend five to six hours a day staring at screens. And they’re often on two or more screens at once – for example, watching TV while playing on an iPad. Even before iPads hit the market in 2010, experts were warning that 80 per cent of children arrived at school with poor co-ordination, due to a sedentary lifestyle. Real play is evolution’s way of helping children develop minds of their own – curious, problem- solving, adaptable, human minds. If the neural pathways that control social and imaginative responses aren’t developed in early childhood, it’s difficult to revive them later and we can see this again in professional settings.
And at this point, there is no long-term conclusions because the technology boom is so recent. However, it’s easy to see how people’s bodies are changing. It has become such an epidemic that there is a western disease fittingly called “Sitting Disease” which almost everyone is suffering from. Emory cardiologist and researcher Dr. Rebecca Levit stated that, “Sitting Disease kills more people in the Western world than all cancers combined.” Yet we do nothing about it and continue to educate our children that sitting is okay. Being sedentary is okay. Sitting improperly glued to screen is normal.
As an adult with a child it is up to you to role model what is normal and healthy. Children look to their parents and adults around them as a guide to life. And so, when they see us glued to our phones during dinner, using our favorite app while watching TV, and making stillness and sitting improperly a huge part of our lives, this is the future that they will develop. It is up to each of us individually to innovate our homes, our work spaces, our lives. When we change, others around us change. It is the domino effect. So, make the choice to begin today, to change your life and the lives around you. All you have to do is start. Move!