We spoke to doctors and health experts to see which backpacks they’re really buying for their own kids because growing spines and minds need proper support.
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Padded straps make all the difference
If you’re busy loading your shopping cart with the cutest back-to-school products, you’re going to want to pay careful attention to the backpacks you choose for the growing bodies in your life. Students carry over 15 percent of their own body weight on average in their backpacks, according to this public health study, which causes biomechanical and physiological adaptations that could increase musculoskeletal injuries. “Look for shoulder straps that are wider, thicker, and offer extra padding so they don’t dig into shoulders,” suggests Irwin Benzel, DO, and board-certified pediatrician in Teaneck, New Jersey, who is also a father of three school-age children.
Waist support is also important
Besides padded back straps, look for a waist strap as well. “An added belt that can wrap around the waist will help distribute weight,” shares Dr. Benzel. “My own fifth-grader tends to carry the entire contents of his locker home each day, and this helps.”
Adjustability is key
Make sure those padded straps are also adjustable. “A bag with good, adjustable straps can help kids carry the weight properly,” says Jennifer Wieder, MD, board-certified New Jersey pediatrician with three young children of her own. “Carrying a heavy bag every day can lead to poor habits, posture issues, and upper back pain. It’s good to establish healthy posture habits at a younger age, especially for adolescents. The joke of it all is that I buy inexpensive but well-made backpacks for my kids because you really don’t need to spend a fortune.”