This is a very common debate that I hear, or a question that I get asked. There’s a lot of fear behind kids going to the gym hurting themselves, or injuring themselves by lifting weights. I’ve also been told that parents believe weight training will stunt their child’s growth. But what does the evidence say?
Does Weight Training Stunt Growth?
According to Falk and Eliakim 2003, there are few studies that have found there is a negative affect on linear growth. The research suggests that when weight training is incorporated appropriately, with control and good technique, the benefits outweigh any disadvantages.
Many parents forget the forces the joints and bones are exposed to in sport, are greater than the forces from weight training. This is particularly relevant to sports that involve jumping, landing, sprinting and contact sports such as rugby. Therefore banning kids from the gym doesn’t make sense. “Resistance training programs are relatively safe and do not negatively impact growth and maturation of pre- and early-pubertal youth.” (Malina 2006).
What are the benefits of weight training for kids?
Physiologically, you can expect to see a reduced injury risk, improved body composition, bone density & strength, motor skills performance and increases in strength, speed and power. Psychologically they can improve their self-esteem, confidence and get used to being physically active, where they can continue this onto adult life. It can also improve their social skills and understand goal setting, which can be translated to achieve academic goals.
Weight Training will injury them?
Yes, but adults also get injured from weight training! However, the risk of injury in a gym is lower compared to sport. Major factors behind injuries for teenagers in the gym include excessive load, poor technique, poor equipment and lack of supervision at the start and during exercise.
“Current research indicates that resistance training can be a safe, effective and worthwhile activity for children and adolescents” (Figenbaum and Myer, 2012). All you need is an appropriate program that is supervised. If training supervised and designed meticulously in a sport/team setting then it should be the same for the gym.
I personally believe gyms could do a lot more to accommodate teenagers and families at the gym. I appreciate there will be conflicts of interest, but surely this generation should get the attention they deserve so we can reduce the levels of obesity?
You also do not necessary need weights for resistance, bodyweight is a resistance and you do not need much equipment to get the benefits or the right intensity. Press Ups, Squats, Single Leg Squats, Skipping & Chin Ups are a few examples.
So, has this changed your views on weight training for your kids?