Scouts learn spine-tingling facts about health and the body

Jump, hop and skip – the scouts did it all at a lively interactive evening at a Scouts night in Ballyragget earlier this month.

Jump, hop and skip – the scouts did it all at a lively interactive evening at a Scouts night in Ballyragget earlier this month.

The guest speaker, chartered physiotherapist Theresa McGinn from Kilkenny Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic, explained to children and parents how society is causing serious musculo-skeletal problems in the youth of today.

“This is a silent epidemic, less obvious than obesity, which is affecting our children,” she said, expressing concern for how these children will be affected as they reach adulthood.

Studies in the late 1990s revealed that four out of ten 18-year-olds had suffered back pain, but Ms McGinn said that in 2008, when she spoke to 15-year-old transition-year students in three Kilkenny schools, up to 80% of them said they had suffered back pain already.

She attributed much of this to the digital era, as well as the need for parents to be aware of where their children are at all times. “Years ago children disappeared over the hills for hours on end, climbing trees and playing outdoors,” she said, “while nowadays they are brought everywhere in cars and exercise is mainly achieved through organised training sessions.”

The children were quick to tell the speaker all the various activities they were involved in, and she commended them on this but explained that they also need to be playing more active games in their spare time. Skipping, cycling, hoola-hooping, tag, hop-scotch, leap frog and just plain old ordinary ball games should be encouraged, she said.

Ms McGinn advised that television before school should be avoided, and where possible the use of games consoles and computers should be limited to weekends, and even then should be limited to about two hours, with breaks after a half-hour. She advised that the World Health Organisation guidelines recommend at least one hour of aerobic activity daily to keep children healthy.

Poor posture, headaches, weak muscles, shin splints and growing pains were just a few of the topics that came up for discussion. Posture was examined and the children learned how the spine should be in an “S” shape while they sit stand and play, and that a “C” shape is bad posture.

Some of the children got involved in little experiments to show how poor posture can cause headaches, how schoolbags carried incorrectly can cause curvature of the spine, while curling up on the same corner of the couch every evening can cause shortening of the muscles.

With a general message of “get active and stay healthy,” Ms McGinn said that children this age want to know how to look after their bodies, and that adults should give them this information.

“Children are like sponges, they soak up information – we should be giving it to them,” she said.

For more information on musculo-skeletal health in children, see Ms McGinn is due to speak to the Bennettsbridge Scouts on December 4.