Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Should my Child be Lifting Weights?

By: Terra Blatnik, MD
Washington University Orthopedics

In an era where CrossFit has become common place and the pressure continues to mount in youth sports, this is a question that most parents may have on their minds: “Should my child be lifting weights? Is it safe for my child to be lifting weights?”

Strength training is the term that we use in sports medicine for weight lifting and other similar activities. In adults, strength training has been found to have obvious benefits that include improvements in cholesterol and cardiovascular health. Kids may have similar benefits and it may also improve their bone health as well.  It can improve overall strength and appropriate training programs may lead to some benefit in acquiring sports skills.  

The biggest concern is safety in strength training. We don’t want our kids to get injured while participating in weight lifting or to affect their growth in a negative way. In both cases, if done in a supervised setting, these injuries and bone issues can be avoided. Most injuries with strength training occur at home in an unsupervised setting. These are typically muscle strains which could be avoided if done under appropriate supervision. 

Before beginning any type of exercise program, kids should be evaluated by a physician to make sure that it is safe. Once this has been completed, it is important for parents to find a well supervised program with adults that understand strength training in children. They should be well-versed in appropriate lifting techniques and know what limitations kids should have.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently made some recommendations regarding strength training in children that provide some good rules to follow. Kids should not begin any type of strength training until they are about 7-8 years old. At this age, they have enough control and balance to handle lifting weights. Programs should focus on light weight and high repetition lifting. Olympic lifting or maximum weight lifting should be avoided until kids are skeletally mature (at least 14-15 years in girls and 16-17 years in boys). Using one’s own body weight is another way that kids can participate in strength training and further minimize the risk of injury. These types of exercises include squats, lunges, burpees, push-ups, and pull-ups. Light weight resistance tubing can also be used in strength training with minimal risk. Every session should include a 10-15 minute warm up and cool down. Strength training should just be one part of an exercise routine for kids—they should also be active in cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, jogging, etc) and sports specific training.      

Following these basic guidelines should allow safe strength training for kids and ease parental worries about injury.      

No comments:

Post a Comment