Posture, exercise, furniture and a flexible space important at any age

The health edition of a new magazine for parents of teenagers ran this article on ergonomic tips to avoid neck pains and other over-use problems

Posture, exercise, furniture and a flexible space important at any age

By Deborah Singerman

Teens spend hours on computers and mobiles, which if you want some quality family time can be a pain in the neck – yours, emotionally, theirs literally. Stiffness, tingling, a medley of aches and pains, and muscular skeletal discomfort are common side-effects of overuse and, in particular, sitting too long especially in the same position.

Further negatives that might also arise include obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, muscle degeneration and foggy brain, says Simon Van Dam, an occupational therapist (OT) and director of backcare & seating. On the bright side, standing up helps creativity, mood, physical health, productivity and there is ongoing research into its potential for learning and memory.

A range of preventative health proponents, OTs, osteopaths, chiropractors and the like, are encouraging about ways to combat aches, pains and musculoskeletal discomfort. Tips are mostly for the workplace but the general principles apply elsewhere, including in schools and home.

Preventing the pain in the first place is the best option. Adopting prolonged sedentary positions, to reiterate, is a definite no-no though, realistically, often hard to avoid. Baker-IDI and the University of Queensland research (commissioned by VicHealth) suggested that office workers spent 75 per cent of their time at the desk. VIcHealth urged employers to provide sit-stand desks.

Push-button hydraulics takes these up and down, allowing teens to vary the way they work. Also look out for desks with flexible working heights and desks that combine a fixed part and a tilt-up section to encourage sitting upright to keep blood and oxygen pumping around the body. Dining tables are rarely the right height for work.

Seating should be the right size and fit for your teenager and, if possible, able to adapt to changes as they grow. Dynamic moving chairs sway when you sit on them.  Generally, make sure that feet are on the floor (or a footrest). Armrests cause problems especially if they stop you getting close enough to the desk. Equipment should be within easy reach. Place monitors so that the top of the screen is at eye-level and have flexible lighting with adjustable arms.

Make sure the space is comfortable and flexible, reducing chances of injury and tiredness. Melatonin, the hormone which makes you feel sleepy, already releases later in the evening for teens, so they are likely to go to bed later but still have to get up for school the next morning.

German company Moll has manufactured ergonomic furniture for children and teenagers for over 40 years and recognises that teens’ bodies are still changing. Spinal columns are malleable and limited peripheral vision means they tend to compensate for this by twisting their bodies to see better.

Regular breaks throughout the day help body, mind and soul. Take short walks every 20 minutes or so and try to get some sunlight and fresh air. Changes to the posture oxygenate muscles, benefitting overall health which, in turn enables teens to study better. Check their posture. It’s all-too easy to hunch over the device of choice, be it laptop, desktop or mobile, or to overload bags and backpacks.

Remember, no one is invincible.



While most suppliers of ergonomic equipment and furniture mostly cater for offices and other workplaces, check them out. Backcare & seating have ergonomic and posture professionals. See and (with an adjustable back support system). Most of Moll’s products have the AGR seal of approval (Aktion Gesunder Rücken – Campaign for Healthier Backs) and are distributed by DAL Brands,

Always tired? Science proves you’re not a lazy teenager, Julia Holman, ABC, February 1, 2013, mainly for offices but has useful tips

Pupils ditch chairs to stand at desks for healthier learning option at Mont Albert Primary, Grant McArthur,  Herald Sun, December 10, 2013

IPad hunch causing serious problems for children, Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (VIC), no date,

Being healthy in the office, Dr Allison Van Ommen, FM Magazine, August/September 2015