Today it's clear: flexible seating is essential for our health. The modern way of life, which is based around a sedentary lifestyle, is categorized as hazardous to our health by experts from all fields. Therefore, in recent years, more classrooms are shifting towards flexible learning environments. But what does "flexible" means exactly? This article will address three elements that contribute to the definition: Mobility, Dynamic, and Versatility.
Flexible seating overview
Why should we encourage movement? One aspect is physical health. Experts suggest that we should diversify our seating position, maintain movement throughout the day, and keep the pressure on the body balanced by spreading it.
The second aspect is mental health or well-being: When getting the opportunity to choose, one can adjust the environment to meet his requirements, resulting in improved well-being.
Because the term "flexible seating" is a bit ambiguous, most people have wrongly mistaken it to be "wobble chairs" or, in their formal name: "kinesthetic furniture" and "dynamic furniture". Examples of this kind of furniture are yoga balls and wobbly stools of many kinds.
Jumpy seats, however, for extended periods may cause more harm than good: the human body seeks a basic neutral position in which to achieve relaxation - movement and posture variations are beneficial, but to a certain extent. Jumpy chairs require physical effort all day long, which eventually places pressure on the body, which we try to avoid.
We also assume that children's concentration will benefit from such tools since movement and "fidgeting equals concentration". But it is a misinterpretation of the known data. Around 9% of children are diagnosed with ADHD; only some will benefit by fidgeting, which will help them concentrate. Yet, more than 85% of the population is distracted by movement while "on-task."
What about those who do feel better while using "jumpy" chairs? First of all, great! Keep using it, but in moderation. Let's explain why: although this kind of furniture keeps the body in movement, they lack two important aspects of movement: mobility and versatility.
While "dynamic"—the movement in the position itself—represents the more obvious aspect of movement, the two others are just as important. Let's examine mobility- the movement within a space. While a Wobble chair might move but remain in the same place, mobility means that you can change the position in space. Why is it important?
Several reasons: first of all, it diversifies the seating option to endless possibilities. Instead of sitting in 2-3 positions in a chair, you can choose to move all your body toward a new position in space, which is reflected in your body position: did you move to a softer area in a space? To a rug or grass? Did you move to an inclined ground? Which posture possibilities does the new position allow? Countless opportunities await you!
In addition to the physical benefit mobility brings, there are several other positive influences. While moving in space, we have endless possibilities to choose from. We can personalize our working area. One likes to sit in an armchair, and the other on the floor. The choice reinforces our self-esteem and creativity. Furthermore, moving in space allows us to meet our peers, which can be as simple as moving to another desk. Collaboration and friendships are strengthened by meeting our peers.
The third component of movement is versatility. It seems unrelated at first sight, doesn't it? After talking about how to move in position and in space, we should discuss how to move between different postures. Versatility means that one can choose to stand and the other to sit, with the space encouraging it. With versatility, we can choose which position in the space we want to be in, and we can change that position by moving around. This choice is incredibly important.
In conclusion, physical health is not just about muscles and bones: the amount of light, the quality of the air, and the amount of noise have a great impact on our physical well-being as well. We can deal with classroom issues by adding a choice to our arsenal: too much light? Move far from the window. Not enough air? Go outside and sit on the grass! Are your eyes strained? Move closer to the whiteboard. It may sound silly, but think of it and notice that these options are rarely provided to us.
Movement isn't just Wobble chair, it is much more than that. We should support it by providing a suitable working environment and habits.
Over to you
The "choice" element was given particular attention in the creation of DidiDesk- a portable desk for kids. We encourage you to check it out and make your own judgement.