Is strength training beneficial for children? Yes, if it’s done prop…
Children seem to have an endless store of energy that needs to be burned, and physical activity helps with that. However, in addition to simply tiring a child out, physical activity is important for their overall health as it has many short- and long-term benefits.
While children are exercising, safety should be of the utmost importance. And for years, weightlifting was considered harmful to children.
But, in the end, it can actually benefit a growing body.
Broadly speaking, physical activity can be divided into two categories: aerobic activity, often referred to as cardio training, and strength training.
The purpose of cardio is to increase the heart rate, which, in turn, improves the cardiovascular system. Cardio exercises include walking, running, or any other activity that increases heart rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for activity in children is quite high compared to adults. For adults, the recommended amount is 150 minutes per week, while for children between the ages of 6 and 17, the recommended amount is 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise.
Strength training should be done in addition to cardio and can be divided into two subcategories: muscle building and bone building. Muscle building includes rock climbing, push-ups or lunges. In adults, only two days of muscle building are necessary, but in children, the minimum is at least three days.
The second subcategory is bone strengthening, which includes high-impact activities like running or jumping. There are no recommendations for bone-strengthening training for adults, but in children the minimum is at least three days per week.
Generally, playing in playgrounds and running with other children count as a form of exercise. And kids who participate in sports like soccer or gymnastics are more than likely to get all the physical activity they need.
Kids don’t necessarily need to focus on specific programs when it comes to muscle building. Many schools incorporate them into their fitness programs through engaging activities such as climbing on playgrounds.
However, if a child wants to get more involved in sports, muscle building may become more important, especially as they get older.
So where do the weights come from?
When it comes to kids lifting weights to build muscle, there should be a clear distinction between weightlifting as a sport and bodybuilding.
The definition of weightlifting varies, but generally, it is a sport whose main objective is to increase muscle mass to improve the physique. Weight training, on the other hand, is a great form of resistance training that helps improve strength and build endurance.
That said, there is no exact age at which children can start lifting weights. The evaluation must be individualized according to the recommendations of a pediatrician and the decision of the parents.
Certain conditions such as uncontrolled blood pressure, seizure disorders, or those who have undergone chemotherapy for childhood cancers can prevent a child from participating in strength training.
One of the biggest benefits of strength training for children is improved bone strength.
Strength training is also appropriate once the child has good balance and posture and the ability to listen and follow directions. In most cases, this is around the age of seven or eight, but it largely depends on the level of maturity.
Although bodybuilding can start at a young age, it is usually teenagers and young teens between the ages of 10 and 15 who are most interested in getting started.
Benefits and Concerns
Strength/weight training should be done safely and with proper technique, especially when first starting out. Children must be properly trained and supervised by a coach or certified trainer. Failure to do so may result in injury.
If done correctly, there are many benefits, especially for those who love sports. The purpose of strength training is to provide resistance, improve muscle strength and endurance. This, in turn, will improve athletic performance in almost any sport. The overall improvement in strength can help protect muscles and joints from sports-related injuries.
Strength training is not only useful for child athletes, but for all children. One of the biggest benefits of strength training for children is improved bone strength. The more a child stresses their bones, the stronger the bone becomes.
Children should increase the strength of their bones as much as possible because, around the age of 25 to 30, the strength of the bones will inevitably decrease. If a child does not develop good bone strength throughout childhood, they are more likely to suffer from diseases such as osteoporosis and fractures later in life.
One study found that weight training three days a week plus impact training, such as jumping two days a week, significantly increased bone strength in teens within five to six months.
Previously, it was thought that weight training could cause stunted growth. However, this is a partial misconception. Although injury to the growth plate (i.e. the area of bone responsible for growth) can stunt growth, it is not exclusive to weight lifting. Injuries can occur when the weights are too heavy or if the child uses poor form, but they can also occur during sports or any recreational activity.
All things carry risk, but if done correctly, there should be no reason to worry.
Activity and children in Jordan
Child physical activity is a growing concern in Jordan. A 2012 local study of Jordanian teenagers aged 12 to 17 showed that physical activity is quite low. It was found that only 53.7% of boys and 27.5% of girls do moderate-intensity cardio activities three or more times a week.
He also found that 51.1% of boys and 22.1% of girls do strengthening activities three or more times a week. Not only is there a significant gap between boys and girls, but in general, the total population of Jordanian teenagers falls woefully short of the recommended amount of physical activity.
The recent pandemic has further aggravated activity behaviors. A recent 2022 study of the physical activity behaviors of adolescents over the age of 14 in Jordan found that before the pandemic, 35.7% of Jordanian adolescents exercised four to six hours a week, and only 13% worked less than one hour per week.
However, during the pandemic, those who exercised four to six hours per week dropped to 7.8%, and the number exercising less than one hour per week increased to 51.3%.
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