You may think your pack has your back… But does it really?

Abby Schindel, Feature Editor

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We are officially back to school, and with that comes the beauty that is school supplies. The colorful pens and the variety of notebooks and folders could make anyone jump with excitement, even if it’s only the middle of July. But with that excitement comes the two extra notebooks and a 36 pen set that will never be used, making your backpack so much heavier. Having a heavy backpack puts a lot of unnecessary stress on your back and shoulder muscles. Matt Gannott, a back and shoulders specialist at Minnetonka O.S.R., advises that, “In a general sense, the load of a heavy backpack […] leads to significant muscle fatigue that ultimately leads to a muscle imbalance. If the muscles in the front of your body and the top of your shoulders are working extra to keep on a heavy backpack, they are constantly being tightened. The muscles between your shoulders help to counterbalance that, but they are easily fatigued and get lengthened and really weak.”

Muscle strength isn’t all you should be concerned about. As your shoulder and back muscles get weaker, your posture gets weaker too which can cause problems all over your body. Slouching constricts your organs allowing more health issues to occur such as closing off your lungs making it harder to breathe. Posture also affects your mood. A test conducted by San Francisco State University asked a number of students to skip down a hallway and others to slouch. The ones who slouched reported feeling their mood drop instantly, and the ones who skipped were immediately happier.

Minnetonka High School is ranked #7 in the state and is in the top 500 schools in the country. Minnetonka students are pushed to be the best in order to represent these rankings. A variety of honors, AP, IB and Vantage courses are offered to help students be the best they can be, but this comes with a more intense way of learning. At times, students learn on their own with bigger textbooks and higher expectations. Lily Thompson is a junior at the high school and states that “as an IB Diploma Candidate, [she has up to] 6 textbooks [she carries] around on the daily for [her] classes. She frets that having that many textbooks is “horrible, especially when I have to carry more than one or two per day.”

Most classes at the high school, regardless of level, require the use of textbooks. While some are online, many AP and IB have real books. This is a key reason high school is such a shift from middle school. Isaac Struble, a freshman at MHS, notes a highlight of this change. “I love how much freedom there is […] carrying your backpack around is great, it minimizes your chances of forgetting things.”

While having everything with you is great, there are noticeable downsides to carrying around a heavy backpack. These include muscle fatigue, knee and ankle weakness, and pain in the shoulders and back. Luckily, there are many ways to lighten your load. Start off at the end of summer by being smart about your school supplies. Don’t worry about how your school supplies look, rather than how it works for you. When you do start school, you’ll  likely realize you have way more materials than you actually need.

Gannott said “with backpacks, the general recommendation is that the weight be no higher than 10-15% of their body weight.” That said, you should be buying a good, secure backpack with two straps, and use both straps rather than one. Using one strap can shift your balance to one side of your body. When you put more pressure on one side of your body, there is pressure on your knee and ankle on the one side, making them more prone to injury. Otherwise, putting things in your locker to decrease the weight is an alternative and equally as good of an idea.

A final tip is to stay organized. As students, we hear this all the time but knowing what you need and what you don’t can make a huge difference in the weight you’re putting on your back. One piece of paper may not matter but 50 pages of notes from last quarter are dead weight that can be left at home until finals come.

As we get back to school, don’t forget to take care of yourself, starting with your backpack. ‘Cause it’s always got your back!

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