To lighten your child's backpack load, follow these tips.

By Jane Bianchi

Take a Load Off

Today's students, on average, carry almost a quarter of their body weight in their backpacks, which can be risky, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Schlepping even 10% of one's body weight can block blood flow to the shoulders and arms, causing achy muscles. To lighten your child's load, follow these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Choose a bag with thick straps. Wide, padded shoulder straps are less likely to cut off circulation. And kids should use both of them.
  • Pack wisely. Remind your kid to place heavy items in the center, against her back, and fill up as many compartments as possible to distribute weight evenly and improve her balance while walking.
  • Wear it high. Tighten straps so the bag rests close to the body, 2 inches above the waist. Low, sagging packs can strain muscles.
  • Bend with care. Tipping forward to pick up something puts extra pressure on the back; advise your child to bend at the knees.

Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.