Health & Spirit

He's not heavy, he's my backpack

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

We may not fully understand Justin Bieber's song "Backpack," but it appears to be a conversation between an earthling (E) and an extraterrestrial (ET).

E: "Don't try to find your spaceship/It might be out there waiting/ Stay in my backpack forever/ Stay in my backpack forever."

ET: "You know I gotta find my spaceship/ My planet's outside there waiting/ I can't stay in your backpack forever."

But one thing is clear: That backpack is too heavy to be healthy. (Spielberg's ET weighed 35 pounds!) Just ask the millions of schoolkids who are schlepping an overweight backpack.

A Consumer Reports survey in New York City once found that sixth graders tote an average of 18.4 pounds, but some packs hit 30 pounds! According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, overpacked backpacks cause pain in joints, neck, back, spine and shoulders, and fatigue, swelling and discomfort, not to mention postural problems.

So, weigh your child's backpack and lighten the load if needed. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it should total 10% to 15% of your kid's weight; an 80-pound child should carry no more than 8-12 pounds. Other smart moves:

-- Use an ultra-lightweight pack with two wide, padded shoulder straps.

-- The straps should meet the pack 1-2 inches below the shoulders; the bottom of the pack should never rest more than 4 inches below the waist.


-- Use a padded back and waist strap.

-- Talk to teachers about making digital assignments so that there are fewer books to carry.


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c) 2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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