Pencil case, 85 grams. Pocket notebook with fairy cover, 28 grams. Lunch, 570 grams. Placemat, 42 grams. Hat and mittens, 227 grams. Extra hat, 28 grams. Inhaler, 28 grams.
Sunscreen, 114 grams. Hand sanitizer, 28 grams. Moisturizer, 28 grams. Cellphone (not working), 42 grams.
Add these and other small treasures squirrelled away in the pockets of the plaid backpack 935 grams together and it all adds up to more than three kilograms. In itself, perhaps not that much. But for Grade 2 student Hazel Taylor, it clocks in at more than 10 per cent of her body weight. Alberta Health Services recommends that children’s growing bodies should carry backpacks that weigh no more than 10 per cent of their body weight to avoid developing chronic health problems in their adult life.
“It’s sometimes heavy because I have my lunch kit and water bottle and heavy stuff,” Hazel, 7, says of her backpack.
Her father, Kirk Taylor, has hefted the bag.
“For her, I think it’s definitely heavy,” says Taylor, also noting that Hazel has never complained about a sore back or shoulders from carrying her backpack. Some items, he acknowledges, could be left at the school rather than brought back and forth, such as an extra change of clothes, “I’m sure if we went through it, there is stuff we could take out.”
Keeping within the recommended weight is likely a challenge for many Calgary students. Lunch, a water bottle and snow pants, not to mention a few school books or an agenda, and the bag itself, and the weight easily adds up to more than 10 per cent of a child’s body weight, especially in the youngest grades. Hauling heavy textbooks back and forth from home to school becom burberry bags sale es a concern for the older grades.
At Hazel’s school, Captain John Palliser School in the northwest, a casual weighing of a small sample of backpacks and grades 1 and 2 students showed most are just under that 10 per cent mark at eight or nine per cent of body weight. One Grade 2 student hit a high of 17 per cent, while on burberry bags sale e Grade 1 was at a low of five per cent.
Neither the Calgary Board of Education nor the Calgary Catholic School District have written policies directing a maximum weight children should be carrying in their bags.
“We don’t specify an administrative regulation regarding that,” said Jeannie Everett, director of Area 1 for the Calgary Board of Education. “We certainly tell parents, through our school news letters, that we support the Alberta Health Services’ recommendations and that parents ultimately get to determine the type of backpack that their kid carries and what goes into them.”
Grade 1 student Sam Symanczyk’s mom bought her a roller bag this year.
“I remember as a kid having pain and neck problems because of a heavy backpack and from carrying it on one shoulder,” said Angela Symanczyk, a certified personal trainer. Last year, her daughter complained about the weight of her backpack, but the roller bag seems to have solved most of the problem.
“When I roll it, it gets kind of heavy and my arms get tired. Then I switch arms,” Sam says of her burberry bags sale bag. She does still need to lift it at times and it can get stuck on snowy ground, but it mostly alleviates carrying the weight.
Julia Brooks, physical therapist with Alberta Children’s Hospital, works with children experiencing neck and back pain.
“I wouldn’t say that there are more new neck and back injuries, but I would say that the current load we’re asking students to carry in their backpacks certainly increases the amount of pain and disability that we see related to that,” she said.
“If we look at a teenager at 130 pounds, that (10 per cent of body weight) is only 13 pounds. They’re lugging along five textbooks and a trombone and pair of gym shoes burberry bags sale and their lunch, and that quickly adds up to 30 pounds. I’ve had some kids weigh their backpacks, and they’re in excess of 30 pounds. It’s more like going on a backpack trip than going to school every day.”
While she hasn’t seen any research literature specifically on how backpacks relate to back problems in children, she does say school bags tend to be a prime suspect when trying to sort out why a child is experiencing back and neck pain.
“Often backpacks are a huge contributor (to such pain),” Brooks said.
She suggests lightening the load by leaving textbooks at school if there is access to another set at home, and wearing a proper backpack so weight is well distributed. Good posture is the other piece to solving the pain puzzle.
“If you look at desk workers and students, they tend to be the ones who have significant levels of neck and back pain purely because of the position they are constantly in,” Brooks said.
Taking “posture breaks” standing up or sitting up straight every 20 minutes and tightening core muscles helps give your back a break.
And those cool courier style bags? Leave them at home, Brooks said.
“Ideally when you’re wearing a bag with weight, you want the weight distributed over both shoulders,” Brooks said. “If you only have a strap on one side (backpacks included), it means that all the muscles on one side are trying to hold you up and the other side is getting overstretched. Courier bags are definitely more stressful on the spine and the musculature around the spine.”
Hazel’s teacher, Nancy Baines, noted that school bags are a weighty subject and reflect changes in our society. With longer bus rides, some kids are passing the time with electronic devices from iPads to Nintendo DS. Older kids have computers to tote with them.
“Over the years, bags seem to have gone up in weight because of the extra things students need,” said the teacher of nine years, who has also seen changes that make them lighter, including using a notice folder instead of a heavy agenda to communicate with parents.