“Is weight training safe for kids?”
This is a question I am repeatedly asked by friends, parents, colleagues and students. Today, let’s take the time to “weigh” in on this topic.
Like most topics, youth strength training has its critics. Some naysayers theorized strength training in kids can cause stunted growth. Some also believe strength training is not appropriate for any child younger than 12. These claims are both unscientifically supported and far from the truth. As with any population and or novice group of exercises, there are considerations; however, when recommendations are followed and the appropriate supervision is provided, children – like adults – can achieve many healthful benefits from regular strength training.
The Benefits of Youth Strength Training
I cannot emphasize enough the benefits of strength training for any population! Regular strength training enhances muscular strength, muscular endurance, bone mineral density, metabolism, joint range of motion, lean tissue development, and builds confidence. Not to mention the benefit of an improved quality of life! For children, the benefits are no different. Children will achieve physical improvements if the strength training program is engaging, age and skill level appropriate, and supervised by a qualified professional. One of the most rewarding benefits of youth strength training is the improvement in self-esteem and the development of a positive attitude toward life-long physical activity and exercise.
For children, the focus of exercise is not on the physical benefits, necessarily. Children enjoy being active – their primary language is in the form of play and joyful movement. Children also engage socially during group exercise. However, for those children that do not gravitate or excel in team sports or are fearful of physical education courses, individual youth strength training is a wonderful and healthy alternative.
When programming for youth strength training, it is necessary to first determine how well the child can listen to, understand, and follow instructions. Most children aged 8 or older generally have no issues following instructions…unless those instructions include the task of household chores or homework!
If you are considering youth strength training as an option for your kids, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Insert fun into every activity. Kids respond well to fun and it makes them forget that they are in fact working.
- Pay attention to what your child wants. It is likely that they will not want to engage in the same training regimen that you utilize for yourself.
- Research the appropriate professional resources. Just as you would for a personal trainer, make sure that individual has, at minimum, an accredited certification. A bonus is an individual with at least a bachelor’s degree in an exercise or health-related field. Visit credentialingexcellence.org for a complete list of accredited organizations and certifications.
- Encourage the use of body weight training, resistance bands, and medicine balls. Traditional machine weights found in most gyms are not sized appropriately for the average child under a certain age or height. Using the wrong sized machine will compromise the movement and could lead to injury.
- Lastly, change up the activities. Children become bored with the same old routine day in and day out. Mix it up and experiment with different ideas.
- Do not fear encouraging your kids to engage in strength training activities – little minds and bodies will thank you!
*Please remember to check with a primary care physician before making drastic changes to activity or nutrition patterns.
It’s All About That Balance -even for our kiddos. Until next time…