You’re likely to remember a teacher who would stand next to your desk and give the stern command:
“Sit up straight!”
Sure, you did what you were told, before eventually slumping back to where you started. And years later, various aches and pains in your back and neck have you wishing you’d followed instructions more thoroughly.
Now consider what the kids of today look to face tomorrow.
“Technology basically is wreaking havoc on our posture, not only cellphones and tablets, but sitting all day at your computer and even things like driving,” Colleen Dachille, owner of The Pilates Body in Peters Township, said.
So-called “text neck” has become a genuine concern for professionals who pay attention to the resulting effects on the backbone. Here’s what Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery for New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, has to say following his study of what can occur:
“The weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees. An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward, the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.”
Think about that next time you see someone hunched over, typing a series of abbreviations, acronyms and emojis.
“Eventually, your discs and all the muscles that surround your spine, unless you are consciously strengthening them and stretching them back out, you’re going to have long-term pain and dysfunction,” Dachille said.
Her studio’s solution, aimed at the demographic that has grown up with the cellphone as basically another appendage, is to offer a Pilates Fitness for Teens class, which starts June 20.
“For the general population, Pilates is a great tool for not only strengthening your core muscles, but it’s a great corrective exercise,” the Peters Township High School graduate explained. “It works on lengthening your spine, increasing your flexibility in your joints, and on your shoulder and hip girdles.”
The exercise method, developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Hubertus Pilates, has a repertoire of more than 600 moves to help tone every muscle in the body.
“They’re taught the same to a teenager as they would to an adult. But the class atmosphere is very different,” Dachille said about the upcoming sessions. “It’s lighthearted. We do silly things with the kids to try to make them realize how to use a certain muscle.”
To provide an example, she’ll stand up and tell you:
“Honestly, I’m not going to be able to do this, but I’m going to show you what we try to get the kids to do. You cross your feet, put your arms like this,” she’ll say, striking a Barbara Eden “I Dream of Jeannie”-type pose, “and lower yourself to the ground all the way, without using your hands. It’s not easy.
Honestly, she makes it look as if it is.
“Those kids, nine times out of 10, are not going to be able to do it,” Dachille said. “When they fall to the ground, everybody starts laughing, and it’s fun. It’s almost like an icebreaker.
Intended benefits of the class include improvements in balance, flexibility, coordination, core strength and sleep patterns, along with enhanced athletic performance and a reduction in the risk of sports-related injuries.
Of course, Pilates extends well beyond the teen years, as Dachille has octogenarians taking classes.
“They don’t look like they’re 80, because of the way they stand and sit and walk,” she said. “They’re more flexible and upright.”
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