Move to Learn
By Dorte Bladt
I was both excited and apprehensive as we drove through the tiny alleys in the densely populated tin and plastic slum dwellings of Siliguri, North East India. We were a group of chiropractors on our way to adjust the children in one of the little schools established there by the local Catholic mission.
As Indian parents prioritised children's help in making a living over sending their children to school, the mission opened a school in the middle of the slum.
At this location the kids could attend for a few hours and still have time to help break and carry rocks, sort garbage, carry water, the mission thereby helping to break the inherent cycle of poverty in the area.
As a chiropractor I work with the function of the nerve system. Stress can cause problems with the way the nerve system works. These stresses can come from different sources, for example:
- Physical stress: as in poor, slouched posture, falls, knocks & accidents, repetitive movement patterns & twisted sleeping positions.
- Chemical: the nutrient-poor food we eat, the level of carbonated &
sugared drinks we drink instead of water, chemicals added to everything in the form of preservatives & colouring, as well as medication/drugs.
- Mental/emotional: stress from doing too much, always rushing from activity to activity, bullying, social uncertainty & parental relationships.
- Spiritual: as in who am I, what am I doing here & where do I fit in?
The stress on the nerve system can cause misalignments in the spine, extremities and cranium. A chiropractor can gently, safely and naturally reduce these misalignments, allowing the nerve system to function better and thereby help a person's body to heal by itself.
Checking these poor children living in the Indian slums absolutely blew my mind!
I had expected serious, chronic misalignment patterns in their spines and cranium given their circumstances; lifestyle, water and food, but no, they were not too bad.
As a whole, they were a lot better than the children I work with in Australia!
How can that be, I have wondered and pondered and worried for weeks over this conundrum.
After much reflection I came up with the following answers;
- Physical: These children in Siliguri move all the time, every day. They go to school for just a few hours per day, the rest of the time they have to help out working, getting water, sweeping floors & streets, cooking, minding siblings, etc. They walk everywhere, they have no tables &
chairs, no TV, DVD, DS, PSS or computers.
- Chemical: They eat fresh, vegetarian home-cooked meals. They have no refrigeration, so everything is local, in-season staples bought & prepared daily.
- Emotional: Connection, love & support, not just from mum & dad, but also from their extended family whom they live with, their caste & their village with whom they are in contact every day.
- Spiritual: They are brought up practicing & living with a strong faith, knowing their place in life & society.
One of the saddest things I have observed in my practice over the last twenty years is the decrease in children's physical activity levels.
Fear of cars and kidnappers as well as parents' work schedules have created a generation of unfit and unhealthy children, a large proportion of them with concurrent problems with learning, attention and controlling emotions.
In a recent study by Laura Chaddock and others, published in the journal Brain Research, it was found that children who are physically fit have a relatively larger hippocampus as measured by MRI, compared to their less fit peers. The hippocampus is a structure in the brain system involved in learning, memory formation, emotional control and spatial orientations. 49 children aged between five and nine were made to walk on a treadmill to measure oxygen absorption to accurately assess their fitness levels.
The fitter children were found to have a twelve percent larger hippocampus and performed better at memory and spatial awareness tasks.
Another study by Leslie Cottrell from the University of West Virginia, presented at the American Heart Association Conference 2010 measured the fitness levels of 725 year five students, and followed up two years later on fitness levels and academic scores.
They found that the children who were fit at the start of the study and stayed fit over the two years performed much better on standardised tests in reading, maths, science and social studies.
There is a strong link between activity levels in a child and his/her cognitive function.
According to research done in the '60s by Nobel Prize winner
Dr. Roger Sperry, ninety percent of the stimulation to the brain comes from movement of the spine. Ninety percent!
I do not know about the learning and behaviour of the children we adjusted in India. And I am not saying that their lifestyle is better, because their level of education is very low, their exposure to pollution and sewage is dangerous and I am sure it is very difficult to live with ten people or more in one room.
All I know is that it is seriously wrong that we as a wealthy, first-world country have children whose spines and nerve systems are less healthy than slum children's in a very poor part of a developing country.
It is essential that we as parents are aware of the pitfalls of children's pastimes. We must encourage regular physical activity and lead by example. It is imperative that we try to confront our lethargy around the use/abuse of electronic boxes; limit the use of TV, DVD, DS, PSS and computers to less than 60 minutes per day. Let's get the whole family involved in the process of making simple, healthy meals that we can enjoy together while we interact and joke and bicker over the day's events.
Let us reclaim the health of our children and our families!
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842