Are backpacks dangerous for students?

When I was a student I remember carrying my heavy book bag to and from school. I would complain firstly about the weight and second about the distance I had to walk from the bus to my house after a long day in school where I was sitting for more than 90% of the time. Then I’d get home and have a snack and watch some television until my mom called me for supper. After supper I would then sit down and do my homework. Then I’d watch one more TV show before going to bed. I’d continue this routine for most of the school week.

The main complaint I hear from most parents is how heavy their children’s backpacks have become; a similar complaint I also use to make. Parents are worried that the weight of the backpacks are damaging to their children’s back and that they may suffer from back pain in the future. However, as a physiotherapist I have never had a single client with back pain related to their school bag. Most back pain in school aged children is not from the backpacks they carry, but as a result of poor posture and inactivity. We should not be afraid of backpacks but be more afraid of the constant state of inactivity seen in children and adolescents today. However, it is important that your children’s backpacks are properly fitted and the child is comfortable with the weight.

The World Health Organization suggests that children should be getting at least 1 hour of physical activity a day. In 2009, only 7% of children in Canada were achieving these requirements. Being inactive can also result in obesity and diabetes. In fact, in 2014, 1 in 4 youths were likely to be obese or overweight. This is a 19.4% increase from 2004. Children should also be doing vigorous physical activities and muscle and bone strengthening activities at least 3 days per week. What better strength training exercise than carrying your backpack to and from school. If you really want to reduce the risk of back pain in your children encourage them to get off the couch and be active. Below is the link for the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

 

http://www.csep.ca/en/guidelines/canadian-24-hour-movement-guidelines

Physical activity of Canadian children and youth: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey” and “Physical activity of Canadian adults: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey”, in Health Reports, Vol. 22, no. 1.

Roberts, Karen C, Shields, Margot, de Groh, Margaret, Aziz, Alfred, Gilbert, Jo-Anne. 2012. “Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: Results from the 2009 to 2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey.” Health Reports. Vol.23, no. 3. September. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2012003/article/11706-eng.pdf.

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