Children need about an hour a day of moderate exercise. While running, playing a sport or bicycling are all great ways to get in that daily exercise, some children may express interest in using weights to build up strength. Although myths have circulated about the dangers of children lifting weights too early, under most circumstances, weight training is a safe and healthy way for children to exercise.
A pervasive myth about strength training for children is that it will stunt their growth. There is no evidence that this is the case, according to Lee Brown in the book “Strength Training.” Other myths include belief that weight training can cause more injury to children than other sports and that children cannot benefit from the activity because they do not produce enough testosterone. While child who weight trains before puberty will not see an increase in muscle size, she will see in an increase in strength.
A few genuine risks are present when a child takes up a weight-training routine. If he overdoes it or does not use the proper technique when lifting or performing an exercise, he does risk injury to his tendons, joints or bones. The risk of injury can be greatly reduced if an adult is there to supervise a weight-training session and provides proper instruction on how to lift. Another way to reduce injury is to encourage children to start lifting weights that seem too light and work their way up to heavier weights and more repetitions.
In most cases, the benefits from a weight training routine far outweigh the risks. In addition to gaining strength, children who lift weights or use a form of resistance training, such as sit-ups and push-ups, see a boost in their self-esteem, according to “Fit Facts” from the American Council on Exercise. Even children who struggle with team sports can succeed in weight training.
Planning a Routine
When your child expresses interest in weight or strength training, you may want to consult a professional, such as a trainer or physical education teacher, to help him develop a routine that provides the most benefit and the least risk. The trainer or teacher should also show your child the proper way to lift weights, perform exercises that use the body as resistance and use workout machines. A good routine will include at least a 5-minute aerobic warm up, such as cycling or jumping rope as well as a stretching session at the end. Your child should focus on one or two muscle groups during the routine.
Keep It Safe
To reduce the risk of injury, a child should only weight train every other day or twice a week. On the days he isn’t strength training, encourage him to participate in another physical activity, such as jogging or playing soccer. Make sure his weight training sessions do not go on too long. Kids Health recommends limiting each session to 40 minutes so that your child doesn’t become over-tired or bored with the routine.