Back to Varsity – Are you sitting your kids up for failure?

As a parent you are immensely proud of your children when they receive acceptance into some form of tertiary education. However, have you actually had a look at what your child is sitting on, especially if they are living in a university residence?

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As a parent you are immensely proud of your kids when they are accepted into some form of tertiary education. Depending on their field of study, a large portion of their day will probably be spent behind a desk sitting on a chair in front of a screen, whether this is a laptop, desktop, tablet or phone. Have you actually had a look at what study chair most students sit on, especially if they are living in a university residence? Because they spend an awful amount of time sitting, splashing out on a good study chair for your kids is a small price to pay for their longer-term health and wellbeing. The 5 consequences of sitting on the wrong chair.

study desk and chair for students
Typical (non-ergonomic) study desk and chair setup in a university residence
study desk and chair for kids

Why should students have a proper study desk and chair?

1. Medical conditions:

University students will inevitably be using a study desk and chair for extended periods of time, often well in excess of 12 hours per day. Sitting for such a long period of time is unhealthy, and sitting incorrectly, only makes it worse. How to Protect Your Health in the Age of the Office Chair. 

    • Sitting with very little movement leads to weight gain and obesity.
    • Weight gain can lead to increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. These factors all fall under the term Metabolic syndrome and can lead to an increase in heart disease, stroke and diabetes. What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
    • Sitting incorrectly can lead to Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), which are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. Examples include:
        • Sprains, strains and tears, especially in the neck and shoulder region
        • Back pain from damage caused to your spine and spinal canal
        • Carpal tunnel syndrome, which may result in numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle atrophy in the hand and fingers
        • Arthritis.

If your student son or daughter spends long hours sitting on a chair at their study desk and they display none of the above symptoms, then they are fortunate. Try to keep it this way.

Developing unhealthy sitting habits now does not bode well for the future. Medical conditions caused by incorrect sitting will eventually  have a negative impact on your lifestyle. The 5 consequences of sitting on the wrong chair.

Decreased freedom of movement and increased daily pain, will ultimately result in a visit to a medical practitioner. Whether this is a physiotherapist, doctor or specialist/surgeon. How much does this cost? After a few medical appointments, or even a surgical operation, you quickly realise that these medical expenses far exceed the price of a good study desk and chair.

A good Ergonomic Office chair costs between R3000 and R5000. Compare this to the annual university or college fees, or ultimately, a surgical procedure to repair the damage caused by incorrect sitting.

leila home office chair
Leila ergonomic office chair

2. Lack of Concentration can be the difference between Passing and Failing

If you are not comfortable at your study desk and keep changing position in your chair in order to find that ideal position, it will affect your overall concentration. Reduced concentration may result in kids having to sit on their study chair for longer than necessary. 9 Tips to correctly setup your study chair and desk.

Ultimately, poor concentration can effect the students overall results. It can mean the difference between passing and failing.

Factors to consider when looking at a study desk and chair for kids

study desk and chair for students
An example of a poor study chair

Step 1 - What study CHAIR are your kids using?

  • Have you recently had a look at what study chair your child is sitting on?
  • How do you know if it is the right chair and if you should consider replacing their chair?

An ergonomic study chair is the first step towards preventing future health problems for students.

study desk and chair for students
An ergonomic study desk and chair for students

Features of a good study chair for students

We are all different, some of us are tall and others short, some have long arms, shorter legs, and so the list goes on. Because of this, the chair MUST BE ADJUSTABLE. Why a fully adjustable office chair is important. Adjustability should include:

Replacing your study chair

You should consider replacing the study chair for your kids if their current chair:

    • has collapsed seat foam - take your index and middle finger and push down on the seat. If your fingers push through the foam and onto the wooden or plastic base then the seat foam is collapsed and worn out. The nett result is that students will literally sit on the seat base while they study, with the cushion providing virtually no support. What is the best foam for a study chair?
    • wobbles or leans to one side
    • cannot be adjusted to the correct height
    • backrest tilt function does not work 
    • does not move freely on its wheels.
study desk for students

Step 2 - What study DESK are your kids using?

    • Is the surface FLAT and is there enough SPACE for a laptop/desktop, keyboard, monitor and writing material? 
    • Is the base of the desk solid or does it wobble?
    • Will the students be able to adjust the height of their chair to match the study desk they are using? What is the correct ergonomic height for my desk, computer monitor and office chair?
    • If the desk is very high, is a footrest required to support their feet? 
    • Are there cupboards/drawers beneath the work surface that will restrict access when they are studying? 

Step 3 - Accessories to improve the ergonomic setup

Due to space constraints, landlord issues, cost, etc, the study desk and chair that your kids use may not be perfect. The good news however, is that there are cost-effective accessories which can improve an "average" study setup. Typical examples include:

Conclusion

As a parent we only want the best for our kids. Sometimes we get hooked on the big things like helping them get accepted at a university or college, and we lose sight of the small things which can make an enormous difference to their life and studies. Whether they are living at home or in a university residence, take a little time and look at their study desk and chair. An ergonomic setup can make a huge difference to their health and wellbeing, and ultimately, their success.

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