As children return to school, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is urging parents not to be wary of children carrying a backpack of moderate weight, as research has shown that weight-bearing activity can help to prevent back pain in adolescence.
'Back packs—even reasonably heavy ones—don’t necessarily damage backs,' APA physiotherapist and research fellow Adrian Traeger said.
'Parents shouldn't be worried about their children carrying some load in their bag. Excessively weighty bags—where the child is clearly uncomfortable—are not advisable, but carrying some load to and from school is perfectly safe and probably useful in the long run.'
With the new school year starting, physiotherapists are encouraging parents to create new habits such as regularly walking to school with their children.
Recent statistics indicate that children in Australia aren’t getting enough physical activity, with the country receiving a mark of D-minus on the annual scorecard produced by Active Healthy Kids Australia.
'Families these days are very busy so it’s important to incorporate exercise into those things you do every day, like getting to and from school, Chair of the APA’s Paediatric group, Julianne Pegler, said.
'Walking or riding to school while carrying a backpack of comfortable weight—not too heavy and not too light—is a simple way to get all the health benefits that come with exercise. It’s low-cost, it’s good for parents and children, and it’s an easy thing to add into your existing routine,' Ms Pegler said.
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.
'The benefits of regular exercise for your long-term health are numerous and well-documented. Starting good habits early in life is the best investment a parent can make in their child’s future,' Ms Pegler said.
The national guidelines for physical activity recommend that primary school-aged children get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, with strengthening or weight-bearing activity three times each week.
'Parents are key role models in encouraging their children to be physically active, so we’d really encourage parents to get moving regularly for their own and their child’s health,' Ms Pegler said.
Parents should contact a physiotherapist if they are concerned about their child's posture, back health, or obesity and weight management-related conditions.
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