Back to School: 3 ways to start the new year active and healthy

With the start of the new school term, the Australian Physiotherapy Association has launched its Back to School Campaign. As a Paediatric Physiotherapist, I often see the impact on children when they carry ill fitting school backs and spend significant hours using various electronic devices. In the recent years, I have seen an increase in children with neck and back pain, and more worrying is the trend towards younger children presenting with back pain and ‘text neck’. Almost all young Australians – aged between 13 and 17 – are not as physically active as they should be with nine out of ten young Australians sitting too much and not moving enough, according to the recommended Australian guidelines. With improved access to mobile phones and the internet, children do not need to leave home to keep in contact with their friends outside of school. Today, children are far less likely than children of earlier generations to walk or cycle to get from A to B, or to play outdoors. Instead, children are spending more than the recommended two hours each day using electronic media. So as the new school term begins, here is 3 ways to encourage active and healthy habits in our children.

1. Reduce the amount of screen time watching television and using electronic media.

  • Infants and preschool children should not be sedentary, restrained, or kept inactive for more than one hour at a time. Screen time should be limited to one hour daily for infants and preschool children.
  • For older children sedentary activities should be broken up as much as possible. Screen time should be limited to two hours daily for older children.

2. Increase the amount of physical activity within your daily routine.

  • Infants and preschool children should be physically active for at least three hours daily.
  • Older children should be physically active at least one hour daily. The benefits of physical activity are enhanced further when children are more physically active than these recommended times.
  • An easy way for school children to increase their physical activity participation is to walk or ride to school.

3. Protect your child’s back with the correct fitting school bag.

  • Children walking or riding to school need to have the correct school bag to avoid injury, as about 70 per cent of Australian school children may suffer back pain from school bags.
  • To avoid back, neck and shoulder pain, postural changes and injuries, school bags should be backpack style, should be less than 10 per cent of the child’s body weight as well as being appropriate for each child’s size with padded and adjusted straps over the shoulders.

School bags should be individualized specifically for your child to prevent back and neck pain. If you are concerns that your child’s school bag is causing them back and neck pain, and you would like your child’s school bags assessed, contact our Paediatric Physiotherapist on 9557 8521 for a “Back to School” consult on today.