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Ensure optimum performance

Physical therapist says children need to be hydrated, get enough rest, wear backpacks properly and assume correct posture
  • Good posture has great long-term benefits for children and encourages concentration and learning, while poor posture leads to increased strain on the body and muscle aches.

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Aug 21, 2017

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While the majority of the country’s students will report to school in two weeks, for some students, the academic year has already begun. Parents are being encouraged to ensure that they take the appropriate measures to make sure their children can perform at their optimum.

Terrell Major, physical therapist at Major Changes Rehab Centre, said, while parents plan for school uniforms and all the supplies their children need, it’s also important to ensure that children are properly hydrated, get enough rest, wear backpacks properly and safely at all times and maintain good posture.

“We should be aware of the effects that sun, in particular, may have on our children and young athletes, [so] staying hydrated is [important], as the results of dehydration include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps and in very extreme causes may even lead to death,” said Major.


Hydration tips

• Hydrating before, during and after strenuous exercise.

• Have students drink 16 to 20 ounces of water at least two hours before moderate to intense exercise in the heat.

• Have students drink frequently throughout the day, especially eight to 12 ounces of water 15 minutes before exposure to the heat.

• Monitor urine color; very pale to light yellow urine is ideal, however, anything darker may be an indication of dehydration and should be addressed.

• Pack a water bottle and water-rich food such as grapes, oranges, watermelons or tomatoes for snacks.



Major said a good night’s rest allows students to awaken refreshed and ready for the new school day.

“Research shows that school-age children should sleep for 10 to 11 hours per night, teenage children should sleep for eight to nine hours and adults seven to eight hours,” he said.

He said preparing students to transition from long summer days and nights to an appropriate bedtime schedule for school can be taxing. He encouraged parents to ease students back into a bedtime schedule early, noting that it typically can take a child anywhere from five to 10 days to become adjusted to a new sleep schedule.

“Gradually moving your child’s bedtime earlier by 15 minutes until you arrive at the desired bedtime schedule will work wonders and is far better than trying to adjust the night before,” he said.


Backpack safety

“Nowadays there are more books than ever, and backpacks are an essential item for back-to-school gear. They are functional and are often used as a fashion accessory


• Continued from page L3 as well. Unfortunately, the incorrect use of the backpack or carrying one that is too heavy can cause lower back pain, discomfort, fatigue and muscle pain,” he said.

He advised that students and parents should always select a backpack that is the correct size, weighing no more than 10 percent of the child’s body weight. If the backpack is still too heavy for the child, consider a book bag on wheels.

• Make sure the height of the backpack extends from approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist.

• Focus on the straps, choosing bags with wide, well-padded straps to distribute weight. Both straps are there for a reason. Encourage your child to wear both to distribute the weight.

• Distribute weight evenly, loading heaviest items closest to the back and balancing materials to assist with good posture.

• Skip the leather and opt for lightweight, durable fabrics that do not add to the overall weight.

• Backpacks with compartments assist with organizing and reducing clutter.

• Pack a separate lunchbox.

• Use online resources, as there are textbook chapters available for iPad or Kindle.

• Clean out the backpack often, removing unnecessary items.



According to the physical therapist, good posture has great long-term benefits for children. He said it encourages concentration and learning, while poor posture leads to increased strain on the body and muscle aches. He encourages students to practice the following:

• While sitting at a desk, place feet flat on the floor.

• Thighs should be parallel to the floor with knees at a 90-degree angle.

• Keep the neck and shoulders relaxed.

• The back should be straight.

• Students should situate wrists at a neutral angle.

• The body should be facing the desk squarely for even weight distribution.

Major said ideally students should avoid sitting for very long periods without getting up to stretch their legs. While in class for long periods, they could alleviate the problem by straightening their legs periodically, rolling their heads, and stretching arms and shoulders to relax muscles and promote circulation.

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