BY SENIOR PHYSIOTHERAPIST DANIEL BROWNE
School holidays are over and Eastlink once again grinds to a standstill, primary and secondary school aged students have begun their long awaited(?) return to study. With this – a slew of new textbooks, workbooks, the latest graphics calculator and a new pair of kicks will undoubtably all find their way into meticulously “Tetrised” packed backpack. Cries of “man feel the how heavy my back pack is’ and competitions of who’s backpack can fit into the top locker soon fill the halls with rampant discussion. But how much is too much? How should your child wear their backpack? Is there a greater underlying issue at play here? Below we seek to break down some of these questions and consider the wider implications. But first a reflection on the current government guidelines.
The national guidelines for physical activity recommend that for children between the ages of 5-17 at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, with strengthening or weight-bearing activity occurring three times each week (ADH, 2019). Of note, according to a recent Australian Physiotherapy Association article (APA, 2017), ‘over the past 40 years, Australia has seen a 42 per cent decline in children walking or riding to school, with no signs of this decline slowing down’. So, the question then becomes, where are children getting their loading? Is running around at lunch time sufficient? Do we need an increase in participation rate into recreational after school sports/outdoors activities?
4 QUICK TIPS ON CHOOSING A BACKPACK
Padded back support of the spine throughout
Wide shoulder straps so as to not dig into the front of the shoulders
Option of supportive straps across the chest and waist to disperse weight
Choose an adjustable back pack that fits – not one the child will grow into!
HOW SHOULD THE BACKPACK BE WORN?
If indeed back packs are being worn correctly as demonstrated by the diagram above, is it the increasingly common sedentary lifestyle of many of our youths over the summer break that is causing the back pain or is it the sudden influx of load as they lug an assortments of textbooks and alike to class for the start of the school year? In reality it’s likely a combination of both – the difference being one issue is transient (that being the heavy load of books comes and goes), the other more omnipresent – the lack of weightbearing activities.
My opinion, don’t overload the backpack – considered splitting up the load of books across days and only take the books you will really need in class. More importantly, in the long-term parents and guardians must consider how much exercise your child is doing both at school and on the weekends. Consider the use of screen time as a reward rather than a given activity, and where possible encourage play that has an increased load baring element to it e.g. running and jumping.
If your child is experiencing any stiffness or soreness upon returning to school, if you would like advice regarding safe exercise to encourage healthy development or even a back pack fitting, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Select Physiotherapy and Pilates.
For additional information regarding suggested activity levels across the lifespan please review the Australian Department of Health’s website link below: