Heavy School Backpacks Linked to Lower School Grades
Somax Performance Institute Finds Heavy School Backpacks Reduce Brain Oxygen
Since the mid-90’s, school children have been carrying heavy backpacks back and forth to school every day. Doctors and parents have expressed concerns that these heavy backpacks may be contributing to musculo-skeletal problems.
But Bob Prichard, President of Somax Performance Institute in Tiburon, CA has found another, much more serious hazard—less oxygen to a growing brain.
“From their first year in school to their last,” explains Prichard, “this generation of teens and young adults has been lugging heavy backpacks back and forth to school every day of the school year. The problem is that the only way you can carry loads that are up to 30% of your body weight is to massively tense up the muscles in your shoulders, chest and stomach. Overusing muscles like this creates microfibers, or mild scar tissue, in the connective tissue between the muscles. These microfibers tend to accumulate over time, restricting the normal expansion of the chest during breathing and reducing the amount of oxygen going to the brain 24/7. We call this ‘Backpack Brain’.”
The brain runs on just oxygen and glucose (sugar). It requires 10X more oxygen than any other part of the body. When we go too long without eating, we notice that our mental performance declines, which we can usually correct in 20 minutes by getting a sugary snack. But when a child’s chest expansion gets restricted from carrying a heavy backpack to school every day, parents, teachers and doctors are completely unaware of it because no one measures their chest expansion. The problem is that the restriction is long-lasting because the microfibers that have formed cannot be released by stretching or switching to a lighter backpack or carrying books on a roller.
Parents of kids who have attended Somax swim camps report that their kids not only swam much faster, but their grades improved at school after Somax released the microfibers restricting their breathing with their Microfiber Reduction program. Engineer Patrick Theut was skeptical when Prichard said he would see an improvement in his daughter’s grades. But her grade point average went from a C+ to a B+, and, to her father’s delight, she even got an A in Physics.
A college golfer saw his grades improve and courses become easier after his chest expansion improved from 2″ to 4″ and his vital capacity (maximum lung volume) increase from 3 liters to 4 liters. In fact, his brain got so much better that he transferred to a harder university and graduated with 2 majors and 2 minors. He carried a heavy backpack all through middle school (where his doctor put him on Ritalin) and high school, where his grades were so poor he was worried he would not be able to even get in to college.
This increase in brain performance from increased oxygen has been confirmed by experiments conducted in England where students were given pure oxygen during a test. Their scores on solving complex problems were significantly better than those who went without oxygen. The beneficial effect of increased oxygen on elderly brains has been confirmed by a Korean study.
Psychologists who studied Somax clients were surprised to see a marked improvement on the 300-word Adjective Check List. Before starting their Somax program, clients selected those words which described themselves. They then took the test a second time, selecting those words which described their ideal self. After completing their Somax program, they repeated both tests. Eight of the ten improved their scores for positive attributes, almost matching their ideal selves. There was also a marked reduction in scores for depression and hostility.
“A high school teacher we worked with many years ago always wanted to start his own business, but lacked the confidence to give up his job and go out on his own, ” remembers Prichard. “On the last day of his Somax program, he announced that he was quitting his job to get his contractor’s license so he could start building homes in his community.”
Prichard thinks the lack of entrepreneurial spirit in millennials could be due to lack of oxygen from carrying heavy back packs.
“We know our brain does not function too well when we go hours without eating,” says Prichard. “But restricted breathing is very difficult to feel as we don’t go for hours without breathing, but instead get a diminished supply of oxygen, especially when we sleep. If you need a lot of coffee in the morning, chances are good that your breathing is restricted.”
“If you feel better after aerobic exercise,” explains Prichard, “it is not due to the release of endorphins, as people still feel good when given an endorphin blocker. Instead, we feel better after exercise because we blow off carbon dioxide and take in more oxygen. This is why so many people can solve a vexing problem after a good run, bike or swim.”
“The problem is that we can only exercise for an hour or so every day,” continues Prichard. “The rest of the time our brain is oxygen starved–unnecessarily depressed and easily stressed by the complex problems life throws at us.”
Prichard also believes the popularity of violent video games and gory TV shows, the meteoric rise in energy drink consumption and widespread internet bullying can all be linked in part to Backpack Brain.
“Restricted breathing is very much like having high cholesterol,” says Prichard. “You can’t feel it. You don’t feel that there is anything wrong with you. You don’t appear ill. But just as high cholesterol is bad for your heart, so restricted breathing is bad for your brain.”
Fortunately, you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to find out if your breathing is restricted. All you need is a cloth tape measure, directions and someone to measure your breathing.
A kit containing a tape measure and directions can be ordered at www.somaxsports.com/breathing
Somax Performance Institute
4 Tara Hill Road
Tiburon, CA 94920
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