In recent years, there has been an increase in concern and discussion around children’s health and development. A 2017 UK study on physical activity in primary school age children determined that only 21% of boys and 16% of girls are meeting the current daily recommendation of 60 minutes. An Australian study conducted this year also found that 66% of children aged between 2-5 years old are not getting the 3 hours of daily exercise recommended for their growth and development.
Reasons behind this lack of activity are considered to include too much screen time, not enough support or encouragement from parents, and injury or other physical barriers. Back pain in particular is a common complaint amongst school age children. So how can we ensure that our kids get enough exercise while minimising the risk of injury?
In this month’s blog post, we discuss 4 ways to ensure that your child remains injury-free by promoting spinal health at school:
School backpacks have long been identified as a leading cause of back pain in children, with some kids routinely carrying bags weighing up to 30% or more of their own body weight. Heavy backpacks can result in fatigue, muscle strain, and upper back and neck pain, as well as placing stress on the spine. Backpacks can also cause ongoing health issues including chronic pain, inflammation and nerve damage.
To prevent your child developing back pain as a result of their school bag, ensure that the load does not exceed 10% of their body weight. You can also encourage your kids to leave items at school, clean out their backpack regularly, and check if they are experiencing any pain or aching muscles. Choosing the right backpack is essential – the bag should fit your child’s torso correctly, include supportive features like adjustable shoulder and chest straps, and have multiple compartments for the even distribution of weight. Another way to minimise the chance of injury is the development of healthy backpack habits, such as wearing both shoulder straps and loading the bag on a desk rather than on the floor.
Another common cause of injuries amongst school age children is sport. Many Aussie kids play sport both at school as part of P.E, as well as after school and on the weekends. Although this is beneficial for their overall health, parents should be careful of allowing their children to train excessively. Overtraining as well as using improper techniques can result in fatigue and the increased likelihood of a serious overuse injury, as well as chronic back pain.
Experts suggest that cross-training can help prevent injury, where children play a range of sports and avoid concentrating on one particular sport and its accompanying repetitive motions. Other tips include giving your child a 3-4 month break every year from their chosen sport, ensuring that they have 2 days off a week to allow for recovery and muscle repair, and following the rule of age vs hours. This means that kids should only participate in organised sport for as many hours a week as their current age eg: an 8 year old should not be playing more than 8 hours of sport a week.
One of the less obvious causes of back pain is stress, where the combination of tension in the neck and upper back, along with long periods of sitting in a sedentary position, can lead to ongoing spinal issues. A 2018 study reveals that young people in Australia experience high levels of stress in school, with 47% of students reported as feeling very tense when they study compared to the international average of 56%. A further 50% of students from Years 7-12 reported feeling moderately to extremely stressed over exams, with the majority of pressure to perform well academically coming from themselves.
Parents can help their children develop healthy methods of coping with stress, including a regular exercise schedule and taking up yoga practice. Yoga has been proven to help develop mindfulness, resilience, self-esteem and increase psychological well-being overall, including reducing stress. Yoga is also beneficial for physical health, able to enhance your child’s flexibility, lower their blood pressure, increase their muscle strength and improve their posture.
Finally, one of the best ways to ensure that your child can remain healthy and reduce the risk of back pain is to ensure they are maintaining good posture. As both children and adults are sitting for longer periods of time, there is growing importance on having proper sitting and standing posture. Poor posture can be improved with supportive school shoes that reduce pressure on the spine, regular stretching and movement during the school day, and the use of ergonomic furniture for study.
At moll Shop Australia, we understand how crucial ergonomic furniture is to the healthy development of your child. This is why all our kids study chairs and study desks are height-adjustable, with the flexibility to grow with your child, and is also the reason behind our constant devotion to innovation and the development of quality designs.
Keeping our kids moving is of vital importance in our increasingly sedentary school and work environments. Following the above tips is an easy way to ensure that your child can stay active and healthy while minimising the risk of injury and back pain.
To learn more about ergonomics and to browse our full product range, please visit our Australian online store.