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What is "Healthy" Movement

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Humans are programmed to move. A young developing brain requires various types of motion to develop important foundational skills for learning. The sensory systems that respond to movement help to coordinate the eyes, hands and body for everyday fine motor and gross motor activities. 

"Healthy" movement refers to safe and accessible opportunities for motion that help everyone feel organised, alert, fit and ready to learn.

As parents and adults, we tend to want children to "sit still." The reality is no one sits without moving for very long, because if we keep our bodies completely inactive, we tend to fall asleep or zone out. Dynamic sitting involves making adjustments to our position for comfort and moving our arms, legs, and body while we are sitting, in order to keep ourselves alert and engaged.

Children who have access to healthy movement in the classroom are more likely to stay engaged and to have better attention and behaviour. Children are already moving in their chairs because they need movement to stay alert. In stable or static chairs many children will tend to tilt backwards, lean forward, swing their legs and sit on the edge of their chairs or on their knees.

Studies have shown that after about a 2 week "settling in" period, children with access to chairs that provide healthy movement only move as needed to stay comfortable and to attend to the lessons throughout the day. In fact, several studies suggest that children show better ability to stay seated, with less disruptive movements, when they have access to chairs that offer healthy movement.

Dynamic furniture also plays a role in good ergonomics, because chairs that swivel and adjust are better suited to helping a child sit at the optimal height and to be able to turn to face the teacher or other forms of instruction at various positions in a classroom. Foot and arm rests, the ability to stretch (such as at standing tables or in pushing back against an adjustable-seat back) and adjustable-height levers all assist in ensuring good ergonomics for the various sizes of children in a classroom: even for the same child who is growing from the beginning to end of a school year.

While studies have shown the positive effect of opportunities for healthy movement in the classroom, many other factors will affect students' behaviour and attention. Other aspects of the environment such as noise level, visual distractions, colour, temperature, room arrangement, access to supplies and many other variables are all important for supporting learning. In addition, there are many other factors that play a role in how students learn.

Healthy movement is not suggested as a "magic cure" but rather one piece in the puzzle for supporting students to be their best for optimal learning.



The following key points highlight much of Virco's work in the area of healthy movement:


  • Good sitting posture requires supports; opportunities for standing, stretching and "heavy work" (such as moving furniture or pressing on a chair back or footrest) are often calming and organising.
  • "Sitting still" does not equal paying attention; a child who has the opportunity for dynamic seating is more likely to stay engaged.
  • Mounting research data shows that the environment, including classroom furniture, can improve behaviour and attention for all students, not only those with special needs.
  • To be most successful, teachers will need education and support to understand how "healthy movement" can support learning and attention, and to be prepared to manage the "settling in" period of about 2 weeks.




Information from other sources has also been useful in understanding the benefits of classroom furniture that provides "healthy movement." We invite you to check out these additional sources:

ADHD Chair - A New Look at Rocking Chair Therapy

What Are the Health Benefits of a Rocking Chair?

Rocking Chair: Providing Therapy for ADHD

The above information is from Virco’s Healthy Movement website.

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