“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”, goes the old proverb. When it comes to developing a healthy, balanced posture, the sooner we can start, the better. The growth phases passed through from late childhood into late teens and early 20’s set the patterns for our posture for the rest of our adult life, for better or for worse.
The typical infant has around 300 separate bone growth centres at birth. However once we reach full skeletal maturity in our early 20’s that number shrinks to 206. It’s not that those growth centres disappear, but rather that some “fuse” together to form larger bones. During this important growth phase, the microscopic scaffolding of our bones (trabeculae) form along the lines of stress that the bones are placed under. In other words, the bones will grow to support whatever posture they’re placed in.
Once those patterns form, they become harder to shift. According to Wolff’s Law, it takes around 5 times as long to for bones to remodel as they took to form. In other words, even if we try to change posture in adult life, it will take at least 5 years of re-adaption to reverse one year of poor growth.
So next time you see your kids slouching on the couch or hanging their head to check their smartphone, know that these habits may have a lasting influence on their posture throughout life.
The solution? Get them up and active – minimise screen time and sedentary activities, get them outdoors and running, jumping, riding, climbing and swimming – in other words, move!
And if you see them hanging their head to check out their screen, remind them to bring the screen up to their eyes, not to drop their eyes to the screen.
And of course, if you still have concerns make sure you seek advice from suitably qualified health professionals. In our experience, kids usually respond much faster to intervention than adults. It’s easier to straighten the twig than the tree!