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Why children should ditch school backpacks

Kids

Quarter of children are carrying more than 20 percent of their body weight in the bags.

Backpacks – a fashion accessory popular among children worldwide. Used to transport books, lunches and stationary to and from school, not many would think it could cause any health problems. But new research suggests that they could in fact be harming the posture of many youngsters across the planet.

In fact, scientists claim that children should stick to transporting their items on wheels – in the form of trolleys, to reduce the damage done to their spines.

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File photo: Just under half of all schoolchildren are carrying an amount higher than what is deemed safe on a daily basis. Picture: Reuters

Spanish researchers assessed a total of 78 schoolchildren who were aged between six and 12. All of them carried their usual backpack to a laboratory for several weeks, which contained all the material they need. Body composition tests were performed to determine the percentage of fat and muscle mass.

They also calculated the weight of the trolley or backpack to find out the relationship with the child's body weight. They found nearly a quarter of girls are carrying more than 20 percent of their body weight in the bags – above the recommended 15 percent. While just under half of all schoolchildren are carrying an amount higher than what is deemed safe on a daily basis.

Study author Eva Orantes, from the University of Granada, said: "We found some alarming data. 'We can say that pulling a trolley, provided it is within the load recommendations of between 10 and 15 percent of the child’s weight, is more beneficial to them than using a backpack with the same weight."

The researchers also found that 97 percent of backpackers think their accessory is always heavy. This was compared to the 85 percent of trolley users who felt the same – despite always weighing more. In addition, 43 percent of those who carry backpacks each day reported back pain – 12 percent greater than children with trolleys.

The study was published in the journal Gait & Posture.

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