Back to School Safety Tips

As you buy your child’s school supplies this year, buy a good quality backpack and encourage your child to wear it properly to prevent pain in the back, neck, and shoulders and headaches.

Backpacks that are too heavy can cause arching of the back, bending forward and straining of the back and shoulders, and leaning to one side (especially if student carries pack on one shoulder).

Because children are in the process forming and building bones, it is very important to prevent spinal alignment problems, and spinal disc injuries that can result from backpack misuse.

Here are some features to look for in a student backpack:

·         Wide, thick straps (to keep pressure evenly distributed and bring weight close to body)

·         Hip and chest belts (to distribute the weight to large muscles and joints)

·         Multiple compartments (to distribute weight)

·         Reflective material

·         The correct size backpack size for your child

How heavy is too heavy?  Weight in the backpack should not exceed 15% of the individual’s body weight.  If your child comes home consistently with more weight than 15%, consider asking the teacher for, or purchasing, another set of books for home use.

If your child slings his/her pack on one shoulder, consider rewarding them with a movie or date for wearing the pack properly for a set period of time in order to break the one-shoulder habit.  Be sure the straps are tightened so the load is close and snug to the body and not hanging down.

School should be focused on working the brain, not straining the back.  Good luck, and have an amazing school year!

If you have a specific fitness question for Alice, she can be contacted at

About the Author:  Alice Burron is an affiliate spokesperson and highly successful personal trainer for the American Council on Exercise.  She earned a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming and is a leading national fitness and wellness program expert.  Her new book, Four Weeks to Fabulous, will be released in the fall of 2010.  Visit her website at

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