Heavy school bags: Stronger focus on ergonomics

A unique and genuine experience for children all around the world – this is what the first day of school is for them. After all, a new stage of life is now beginning for them. Proud, but also a little bit excited, they are happy to finally be one of the "big kids". And one shouldn’t forget one of the highlights of starting school: a trendy school bag. The children, who feel sensitively supported throughout their entire educational career, whether physically or mentally, transform their initial enthusiasm into a feeling of well-being in their everyday school life. This starts with the right choice of school bag – the key word here being 'ergonomics'. 

Why is ergonomics important for children in the first place?

Even as early as childhood, you set your course for the state of your health in later life. Anyone wishing to enjoy life in good health until their old age should, therefore, pay attention to ensuring their good physical development at an early age: for example, by taking preventive measures against the typical back problems caused by poor posture and incorrect movements. An ergonomically shaped school bag is an extremely valuable tool in this respect, because it keeps your back in a stable balance all the time. 

This is a topic that is now attracting a great deal of attention around the globe – according to the hands-on experience of IGR Institut für Gesundheit und Ergonomie e.V. (institute for health and ergonomics). Within a very short space of time, a huge market for school bags has emerged in East Asia – a development that initially came as a surprise. This region is, after all, better known as a manufacturer and exporter of such products. But what should retailers tell parents to pay attention to when buying a school bag? Which ergonomic features are particularly important?

A uniquely classy rather than a mass-produced product – it's the fit that counts

Every person and every child is different. This becomes evident when you look at the different types of physique that they have. Whether large and lanky, small and strong or a mixture of individual characteristics, the human stature cannot simply be forced into some preconceived "template". That is why the following applies first and foremost: the school bag must adapt adequately to the child's particular bearing, and not the other way round. This is an aspect that is particularly important as this phase of life is characterised by regular growth spurts.

Getting bigger, making it big – with no ifs or buts

In order, therefore, to take account of the little children's physical development, the school bag has to be able to "grow" with them. The opportunity to adjust buckles and straps so that the bag fits the child precisely helps with this – at least if adjustments are as simple as possible, i.e. self-explanatory. As soon as the children and their parents have to fiddle around too much or even fail to adjust the bag because of the technology, they lose interest in the long run. The consequence is that the school bag stops "growing" and can no longer keep up with the rapid development of the schoolchildren. 

By the way, the instruction manual for the school bag should be clear and easy to understand. That way, the bag ends up where it belongs – on the child’s back. However…

You have to learn how to carry it properly!

It is crucial that the bag's weight is evenly distributed. This is a goal that is achieved quite well with a special system of various carrying straps – a combination of a chest and hip belt. This combination has proven to be particularly effective when carrying books, exercise books, pencil cases and so on. The strap around the hips takes the strain off the shoulders. Ultimately, the entire weight of the bag is shifted to the pelvis. It’s a positive effect, which is also familiar to those who use hiking rucksacks.

Whether or not the children just starting school really like to shoulder their bag ultimately also depends to a large extent on how comfortable it is to carry. Padding in the ergonomically relevant areas of the shoulders, back and pelvis ensures a feeling of well-being. So if you want to promote the health and well-being of your children in the best possible way, you shouldn't lose sight of all these special technical and ergonomic features.

Caveat emptor: use test certificates as a guide

Nevertheless, selecting a suitable, ergonomic school bag is becoming increasingly difficult. The choice is becoming increasingly wider and the respective manufacturers are outdoing each other in terms of innovative high-tech equipment, sustainability and health. Test certificates are a good and helpful guide. They include the seal of approval issued by IGR Institut für Gesundheit und Ergonomie. This is because only products that – in addition to undergoing a technical (review) test – also meet the criterion of ergonomic usability actually receive this award. Such a recommendation is, therefore, consistently based on the idea of prevention. This means that the highest goal is the preservation of health. Ergonomics is literally developing into a USP that has a direct positive impact on sales. "Particularly with regard to a person's healthy physical development, it's vital to do everything possible to prevent damage, especially to the back," says Ralf Eisele, Marketing and Sales Manager of IGR. 

More than just healthy ergonomics

And last but not least, looks and safety play an important role alongside ergonomic aspects. Children do not need to forego images of their favourite series or fabulous heroes. Parents also find it reassuring when luminous reflectors ensure that children are visible in traffic.

So the impossible is quite possible: finding a satchel that makes not only children's eyes shine but also accompanies the little ones in a sustainably healthy and safe manner throughout their entire school life until they reach adulthood.

The ideal school bag should be much more than just a bag for carrying things in. It should be the following: 


  • ergonomically designed so that it fosters children's health in the long term; 
  • easy to adjust so that it "grows" along with the child's growth spurts;
  • accompanied by an easy-to-understand instruction manual for "fine-tuning";
  • visually appealing, including superheroes or mythical creatures, so that children will enjoy carrying it. 

About the author

The IGR Institut für Gesundheit und Ergonomie e.V. (institute for health and ergonomics) is part of a powerful network. Doctors, physiotherapists, scientists, operational health management staff, government representatives, product developers and retailers – they are all concerned with health and ergonomics. The institute has been based in Nuremberg since its foundation in 1998 and started with back training courses for children. Today the IGR pays attention to safety and health at work, advises companies on the ergonomic design of both administration and production workplaces. In addition to the workplace analyses, it also carries out risk assessments and certifies ergonomic products. A comprehensive training and seminar programme rounds off the range of services.

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