There’s no doubt that the number of overweight and obese children has reached epidemic proportions in this country. Although dietary habits play an important role in this growing health crisis, lack of physical activity is also an important factor. Most parents are looking for any possible way to get their kids up off the couch to burn some calories. One option that some children express an interest in, particularly boys, is weight lifting. Although this sounds like a better option than video games, is weight lifting for children safe?
The good news is weight lifting for children carries with it a variety of advantages. It builds muscle strength and strong bones, reduces excess body weight, and boosters confidence. It can also help make a child more competitive if he or she chooses to participate in a sport. Although weight lifting for children offers benefits, certain precautions need to be taken to help your child avoid injury in the weight room.
At what age is it safe to allow children to lift weights? Most sports medicine physicians recommend that children wait until at thirteen years of age before starting to lift weights. At this age, stature and body composition are usually developed enough to handle the challenges of weight training. Even at this age, weight training should center around lighter weights using high repetitions. This will help to prevent the problem of too much stress on joints, muscles, and bones that may still be developing.
Although children younger than thirteen may not be good candidates for a weight training program, they can safely do floor exercises that build strength such as modified push-ups and abdominal crunches. They can also jump rope and ride a stationary bicycle for endurance. These are good ways to reinforce the exercise habit until they’re old enough to lift weights.
Children lifting weights should always be supervised to prevent injury. Many health clubs and gyms have age restrictions, so be aware of this before you take your child to the gym. Like adults, children lifting weights need to warm-up by stretching to make sure the muscles and joints are warm and ready for the challenge. Good form should be emphasized over poundage with close tabs kept on how much weight is lifted to avoid injury. Emphasis should be placed on proper breathing technique with no breath holding allowed.
The advantage of weight lifting for children is that it can establish a life long habit of physical activity. Plus if you work out, it’s an opportunity for you to help your children lift weights while spending time with them. Studies have shown that children in families who exercise together are more likely to adopt exercise habits that will make them healthier adults.