Is weight training beneficial for children? Yes, if done properly

(Photos: Envato Elements)
Children seem to have an endless supply of energy that needs to be burnt off, and physical activity helps with that. However, besides simply tiring a child out, physical activity is important for their general health as it has many short-term and long-term benefits.اضافة اعلان

While children exercise, safety should be of the utmost importance. And for years, weightlifting has been believed to be harmful to children.

But, as it turns out, it may actually be beneficial for a growing body.

Generally speaking, physical activity can be divided into two categories: aerobic activity, often referred to as cardio 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 6 and 17, the recommended amount is 60 minutes daily of moderate to vigorous exercise.

Strength training should be done in addition to cardio and can be further divided into two subcategories: muscle strengthening and bone strengthening. Muscle strengthening includes climbing, push-ups, or lunges. In adults, only two days of muscle strengthening are required, 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 a week.

Simplifying exercise
Generally, playing on playgrounds and running around with other children counts as a form of exercise. And children participating in sports such as soccer or gymnastics are more than likely to receive the full amount of physical activity needed.

Children do not necessarily need to focus on specific programs when it comes to muscle strengthening. Many schools incorporate them into their physical fitness programs through engaging activities such as climbing on playgrounds.

However, if a child wants to get more involved in sports, strengthening muscles can become more important, particularly the older they get.

So, where do weights come in?
When it comes to children lifting weights to strengthen muscles, there should be a clear distinction between weightlifting as a sport and weight training.

The definition of weightlifting varies, but generally, it is a sport where the primary objective is to increase muscle mass to improve physique. Weight training, on the other hand, is an excellent form of resistance training that helps improve strength and build stamina.

That said, there is no exact age at which children can begin lifting weights. The assessment should be individualized based on a pediatrician’s recommendations and the parent’s decision.

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 weight training.
One of the greatest benefits of strength training for children is the improvement in bone strength.
Weight training is also appropriate once a child has good balance and posture and the capacity to listen and follow instructions. In most cases, this is around the age of seven or eight, but it largely depends on maturity level.

Although weight training can begin at a young age, it is typically adolescents and young teens between the ages of 10–15 that are most interested in starting.

Benefits and concerns
Strength/weight training should be done safely and with proper technique, especially when first starting. Children must be properly trained and supervised by a certified trainer or coach. Failure to do so may result in injury.

If done correctly, there are many benefits, especially for those who are into sports. The entire purpose of weight training is to provide resistance, improving muscle strength and endurance. This, in turn, will enhance athletic performance in nearly any sport. The overall strength improvement can help protect muscles and joints against sport-related injuries.

Strength training is not only useful for child athletes but all children. One of the greatest benefits of strength training for children is the improvement in bone strength. The more a child stresses their bones, the stronger the bone becomes.

Children need to increase their bone strength as much as possible because, by the age of 25–30, the strength of the bone will inevitably decrease. If a child does not build good bone strength throughout childhood, they are more susceptible to conditions 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 adolescents within five to six months.

Previously, it was thought that weight training could lead to stunted growth. However, this is a partial misconception. Although injury to the growth plate (i.e., the area of the bone responsible for growth) can stunt growth, it is not exclusive to lifting weights. Injury can occur when the weights are too heavy or if the child is using poor form, but it can also occur during sports or any recreational activity.

All things carry risks, but if performed correctly, there should be no cause for concern.

Activity and children in Jordan
Physical activity for children is a growing concern in Jordan. A local 2012 study conducted on Jordanian adolescents between the ages of 12–17 showed that physical activity is quite low. It was found that only 53.7 percent of boys and 27.5 percent of girls do moderate-intensity cardio activities three or more times a week.

It also found that 51.1 percent of boys and 22.1 percent of girls do strengthening activities three or more times a week. Not only is there a significant discrepancy between boys and girls, but generally, the total Jordanian adolescent population is woefully under the recommended amount of physical activity.

The recent pandemic has further worsened activity behaviors. A recent 2022 study on the physical activity behaviors of adolescents older than 14 in Jordan found that before the pandemic, 35.7 percent of Jordanian adolescents exercised four to six hours per week, and only 13 percent exercised less than one hour per week.

However, during the pandemic, those exercising four to six hours per week plummeted to 7.8 percent, and the amount exercising less than one hour per week rose to 51.3 percent.

Read more Health
Jordan News