As parents and grandparents help students (young and older) prepare for the upcoming new school year, a little information about the impact of backpacks can be very helpful.
Backpacks can be surprisingly heavy once books and supplies are gathered. On average, 6th graders carry backpacks weighing from 18 to 30 pounds. Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a student carry no more 15 percent of their body weight and ideally less than that, there are many students whose long-term back health is at risk.
In order to reduce this risk and take care of your growing loved ones, here are a few helpful back care tips:
1. Pay attention to the weight of your student’s backpack. Know the student’s weight and the back pack so that you can learn what the weight ratio is. For example, a child weighing 80 pounds should not be carrying more than 12 pounds.
2. Every effort to reduce the weight of the backpack should be made. This can be done by helping your student organize the contents and learn what is truly needed and what isn’t for any given day. When it isn’t possible to reduce the load, there are two options that can make a difference. 1) You can secure a backpack with wheels, or 2) You can help your student organize the contents so that the heaviest items are closest to the back.
3. Help your student learn how to wear the backpack so it is over the mid-back where the strongest back muscles reside. Adjusting the shoulder straps so that the backpack not only sits in the middle of the back but can also be taken off or put on without strain is important. Straps that are too loose are problematic as the backpack shouldn’t sit below the low back.
4. Using both straps is a big deal. Lots of students want to throw the backpack over one shoulder. The weight distribution ends up being uneven and can be very strenuous. When the weight of the backpack is evenly distributed across the shoulders the weight impact decreases.
Good back care that begins early in life, can result in a much healthier future for growing bodies and growing minds!