If you live in a city, this article is for you. If not, listen up anyway. We’ve all got stuff we need to carry, and some need to lug around more than others. Chances are you’ve got some kind of bag or knapsack you carry your things in, and most likely it’s hung on one or both of your shoulders.

   Whether you drive a car your bag is always thrown into, or you walk around with a backpack on you all day, the weight of our bags puts extra weight on our bodies, even if we carry it for a short period of time each day. Think about how a heavy backpack might make your back sore from having to always lean forward against its weight. Usually when I tell my clients this, they either decide to switch up the bags they use every few weeks, or ask that I recommend a better plan. So here’s the breakdown of what I suggest you use bag-wise to save your body!

No bag:

   While this might not seem like an option, I assure you it can be. Men’s fashion is famous for having more pockets than women’s, but anybody can utilize some pocket action with some smart wardrobe choices. If I’m going with this option, I make sure I’m wearing my favorite jean jacket & some pants. My phone will fit in the back pocket of my jeans, and my keys, cards and money will fit in my jacket pockets. Anything larger I need to take I just carry in my hand. Headphones fit in outside pockets, as does some gum and lip balm, and if I know I’ll be eating on-the-go I slip a reusable spoon in my pocket. It’s the best feeling in the world to not be weighed down by a bag if I don’t need to be!

Carry a bag in your hand:

   This is the second best option to having no bag at all. In general, if you’re carrying something by your side, your arms and shoulders are doing what they were made to do. This is much better than having a useless downward force placed upon your shoulder from a shoulder strap. Importantly, you don’t want to have much more than 5-7 lbs to carry on one side. If you’ve got a bunch of stuff, you’ll want to even yourself out by having one bag on each side of equal weight.

   Make sure to really engage your back muscles, rather than letting your shoulders roll forward, pulling on your neck and shoulder joints. Also try not to hike up your shoulders while carrying things to reduce the stress on your trapezius muscle(the shoulder muscle frequently over-used in a lot of people).

Bag on your body:

   Generally, the closer a bag is to your body, the less force will be pulling against you. I’m not a fanny pack kind of person, but I’ve seen some on-the-hip bags that look totally cool, and don’t pull you out of whack if they aren’t too stuffed full of odds and ends. Keep your things to a minimum as described in the no-bag approach, and you’re gold.

Backpack on your upper back:

   Backpacks are a mixed bag, and what makes them good or bad is where they sit on your body and what size they are. You want a backpack to sit as high on your back as it can, and try not to wear one that is larger than your ribcage(unless maybe you’re hiking, in which case a larger bag would be necessary for carrying camping gear). This is why you see backpacks with a strap closure across the chest-it keeps the bag higher up and closer to your body. Also, backpacks with pockets and compartments are helpful in ensuring that all of the weight of what you’re carrying doesn’t fall to the bottom and stress your lower back.

One shouldered bag:

   If you’re going to have a bag that crosses your body, or just hangs off one shoulder, it is imperative that you switch the side you wear it on often. I’ve actually had clients come in with divots in one shoulder from using only that side to wear their bag every day, evidence of the slowly changing shape of their muscles and connective tissue. If you can’t seem to hold your bag on one side because it slips off, your body has probably adapted in the same way!

   Think about alternating on given days-Mondays are your right shoulder, Tuesdays are your left, etc.. It’s tempting to say “Oh, I’ll just switch which shoulder I use whenever I pick it up”, but that usually results in favoring one side more than the other unconsciously. Having clear days for each shoulder will in the long-term yield better results.

 

    For the most part, having no bag or having briefcase sized bags held in your hands is the best option. There are ways to make other options healthier, but I encourage you to look at my list and see what you can do with your current schlepping routine. One of the best parts about reassessing your current bag routine is in reconsidering what you’re carrying around. I once found a heavy flint and steel I had been carrying around for months in the bottom of my every day bag! 

   It might seem like a trivial thing, but every ounce of weight you carry around makes a difference. So try some no-bag days. It’s one of the most liberating things you can do for yourself, and your shoulders will thank you.