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How Important is Strength Training for Kids?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Should children and adolescents strength train? For years, many said "no", believing that it could damage a child's growth plates, thereby stunting their growth. The risks of injury seemed to outweigh any benefit that strength training could provide. But there is growing evidence that strength training is very beneficial for children and could be an important part of their exercise routine.

The latest review, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at studies from the past 60 years related to kids and strength training. "The researchers found that, almost without exception, children and adolescents benefited from weight training. They grew stronger. Older children, particularly teenagers, tended to add more strength than younger ones, as would be expected, but the difference was not enormous. Young people of any age who participated in resistance training at least twice a week for a month or more showed greater strength gains than those who worked out only once a week or for shorter periods."

Early opinion was that lifting weights wouldn't make kids stronger, but research doesn't support that theory. Children don't gain muscle mass the way adults do, but rather experience neurological changes that cause their nervous system and muscles to interact more efficiently. So even though you might not see changes on the outside, there are changes happening on the inside for kids who strength train. Experts say strength training can help prevent injury in young athletes, provided they are doing it safely.

Strength training for children shouldn't involve hours in the gym lifting weights. In fact, it doesn't have to involve weights at all. Body-weight exercises like pushups, one-leg exercises and lunges can all provide the same benefits as a traditional strength training program. Children should always be supervised to make sure they are using proper form, but can perform these exercises without as much of a safety concern as traditional weight training workouts. According to one expert involved in this research, a good age to start regular strength training is between ages 7 and 12.

What do you think? Are you surprised by these recommendations? Do (or did) your children or adolescents strength train?

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This is good to know. My two boys ( 9 and 12 ) always want to workout with me but I was concerned that it wasn't good for them. Thanks for the information. Report
My two younger children (7 and 12) are both interested in exercising with me, and I do a lot of body-weight strength exercises; I don't have any weights at home. In fact, we have a copy of EA Active Sports 2, and both of them really enjoy doing the activities, including those with resistance bands. Report
doesn't surprise me at all- it's good to hear though, since i've heard plenty of people discourage it. who didnt have to do push-ups in school, though? and it's good to teach kids habits early as part of their neuro development, in general, and this includes strength training according to this article :) Report
My grandchildren love doing jumping jacks with me & push ups. I love that they enjoy working out. Report
My 6 year old has been mimicking my strength training for weeks using 1 pound weights and a jumper ball while I use my weights and a pilates ball. Last weekend he struck out on his own and showed me 10 perfect pushups! I know he is a little young, but he loves doing exercises with me, so I just watch him carefully to make sure his "form" is correct and have advised him to stop when he is tired or can no longer keep the correct form. There is no pressure, he participates if he chooses and doesn't if he doesn't feel like it. Report