It’s important that kids get some sort of physical activity each day, but is weight lifting an appropriate activity for children? It’s a question that many have mulled over for decades. Some people say that weight lifting can stunt adolescents’ growth while others tout the benefits of it. Getting children active and off of the couch may make weight lifting seem beneficial, but do the pros really outweigh the cons in this case?
Is Weight Lifting Safe For Kids?
Imagining a bunch of little ones pumping iron may seem comical, but it can actually be a dangerous situation if not done properly. Kids can easily injure themselves around weights and weight lifting equipment if not supervised by an adult. Even with adult supervision, children are at a great risk of injuring themselves if they lift more weight than they can handle or if they lift improperly. Some of the accidents that have occurred in children who lift weights include:
- Herniated disks
- Torn muscles
- Bone fractures
- Damage to cartilage and growth plates
Weight Lifting VS Strength Training
If weight lifting is so damaging to children, then why do some people praise the benefits of it? To understand the answer to that question, it is important to understand the difference between weight lifting and strength training.
Weight lifting, also known as powerlifting or bodybuilding, can sometimes be confused for strength training and vice versa. But they’re two very different things. Weight lifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding are something that people do for sport or competition. The goal is to be able to lift greater amounts of weight than competitors or to look physically better than others in those competitions. It’s in these sports that children can get hurt by lifting weights that are too heavy or by overworking themselves.
But strength training is something that children can benefit from. The goal of strength training is not to pack on muscle or to best someone in a competition. The goal is just to strengthen the muscles and increase physical endurance. Strength training does not need to be done with heavy weights or weight lifting machines. In fact, it can be done with rubber bands, resistance bands, medicine balls or even with the child’s own body weight.
Benefits Of Strength Training
There are many benefits of strength training for children and even teenagers. Here are some of those benefits:
- It can strengthen bones and muscles.
- It can increase physical endurance.
- It can fortify tendons and ligaments.
- It can improve bone density.
- It can help adolescents maintain a healthy cholesterol level as well as keep their blood pressure at a healthy level.
- It can help children and teens maintain a healthy weight.
- It can help them perform better in sports and can even prevent sports-related injuries.
It allows the nervous system and the muscles to interact more efficiently with each other.
Aside from the physical benefits, strength training can also increase a teen’s or child’s self-esteem and confidence. They’ll feel better about themselves, about how they look, how they feel and how they can perform on the field.
How To Start Strength Training
Strength training can be started early, but not too early. The youngest age that children are recommended to start at is seven or eight. It’s recommended that children start before puberty or at least by age 12 because the body is more flexible during this time and can be more easily trained.
When strength training, children should be supervised by an adult to ensure their safety. An ideal way of getting a child involved in strength training is by enrolling them in a class so they can work with a trainer who will supervise them and teach them how to do the exercises properly. Many gyms and even some schools offer such programs for both children and teens.
Overall, the exercises won’t differ from children to teens, but there will be some differences. Younger children can start out by doing sit-ups and push-ups while older teens may do tougher variations like one-handed push-ups and inclined sit-ups. Younger children may pass a medicine ball around a circle while teens may do the same exercise with a heavier medicine ball. Other exercises include doing lunges with a light tube or broom handle and using resistance bands, which will increase in resistance as the child gets older.
Classes can also be beneficial to children because they’ll learn how to properly warm up and cool down. They’ll also be able to interact with other children who have the same interest in strength training as they do. (For ideas on warm up exercises, check out 10 Dynamic Warm Up Exercises.)
So back to the original question: Does weight lifting stunt your growth? There isn’t any hard scientific evidence to prove that, but weight lifting can lead to serious injuries in both children and teens. A healthier, more beneficial alternative is strength training, which allows children to become stronger and more physically fit.