Have you ever heard anyone say, “don’t let children do any strength training because it will stunt their growth!” The latest research has shown that strength training can actually be very beneficial for children both physically and mentally. Not only is it beneficial but there has been no documented evidence that any child has injured themselves when performing strength training exercises. Whereas if you have a look at the emergency room on a Saturday afternoon it’s full of children who have hurt themselves playing sport. So when should they start?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends strength training for children as young as six years old. In general, if a child is old enough to participate in organised sports, he or she is ready for a strength training program.
Research has shown strength training helps children maintain a healthy body weight, benefits skeletal and joint development as well as improves sports performance. ACSM reported that strength training programs can prevent as many as 50 percent of all preadolescent sports injuries.
Among the general developmental benefits of strength training is its ability to increase bone mineral density, thereby decreasing the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. In fact strength training is most beneficial for young women before the age of 16 and young men before the age of 18. Evidently, the benefits acquired are long term.
In addition to decreasing the risk of osteoporosis, strength training:
– strengthens ligaments and tendons
– readies soft tissues to produce the forces associated with play, making them more pliable and resistant to external forces
– improves motor fitness skills, such as jumping and sprinting, which are often required in sports performance.
Most importantly because strength training is structured similar to play (i.e., periods of high-energy activity alternated with longer periods of rest), it can be fun for children.
As with any physical activity, certain precautions should be taken for the participant’s safety. Adult strength training guidelines and programs should not be applied to children. For example children should never perform a maximal weight lift or ballistic movements (i.e power lifting exercises).
So there you have it, young children can be involved in strength training programs. However certain precautions must be taken, for example they must do it under qualified supervision by a person trainer or gym instructor. The program will start off with body weighted exercises and progress to weighted exercises such as using dumbbells. It is important to start training at an early age as this will improve body mineral density for later in life. Overall strength training helps children maintain a healthy body weight, benefits skeletal and joint development as well as improves sports performance.