Fitness For Youth: The Right Weight Training For The Right Age
For years, there has been a misconception that if a child or teenager lifts weights, then their growth will be stunted. While there is some merit to the fact that the wrong type of weightlifting can impede a young person’s physical development, the appropriate type of working out is a very positive lifestyle habit for children and teens to start at a young age. The key is safety. It is imperative that the proper exercises and techniques are taught to young fitness enthusiasts so that their bodies will grow without any potential injuries or pre-mature “wear and tear” on their joints, ligaments or tendons.
A commonly used old adage is that a child is old enough to lift weights when they are old enough to shave. This used to basically put children in the range of puberty age for beginning their fitness journey with weights. While this is a very typical age for many young people to start working out, there is no reason that children even younger cannot begin exercising with weights. As long as they are strengthening muscles and not stressing any joints with excessive weight, children can greatly benefit from all that working out has to offer.
One of the main reasons for confusion as to whether or not children can work out with weights with no chance of stunting their growth is misinformation about the growth plates (area of growing tissue) near the end of long bones in children and adolescents. The future length of a bone is determined by the growth plates at each end. In recent years, there have been many studies done that have shown that weight training does not slow down or stunt the development of the growth plates on child and adolescent bones. There is a much greater likelihood that a traumatic event, such as a bone fracture or break, can cause abnormal stunted growth of bones, if the injury is not treated effectively.
While working out with weights does not directly stunt growth in children and adolescents, it is important to realize that there are certain exercises that are not appropriate for young people. Barbell squats, for example, place too much stress on the lower back and spine for young children and pre-teens to be included in their fitness routines. Similarly, the risk factor for powerlifting movements such as deadlifts is too high to take chances on the growing body of a young person. An exercise of this immensity requires proper instruction from a professional trainer or an experienced strength coach who knows how to teach the correct form to avoid short-term injury as well as long-term damage that can be caused by incorrect technique.
When it comes to working out with weights, the amount of weight being lifted is of utmost importance for individuals of all ages, but especially for children and pre-teens. Lightweight workouts are more than enough stimulation for the muscles on the body of a still-growing young person. Keeping the repetition range around 15 per set of any given exercise is safe and appropriate for any child. Focusing on smooth movement for each repetition of each exercise is also a crucial part of any workout. Kids tend to swing the weights in their hands when they work out. To fix this, it is very important to make sure that they are controlling the weight during the movement of the particular exercise. Simple range of motion exercises are best for kids and pre-teens. Bicep curls, overhead presses and lunges are excellent choices to start in a youth weightlifting program. These movements are very natural and easy to master. The quicker a young person can perform proper technique of an exercise the more likely he or she will enjoy weightlifting and remain consistent with a workout program.
The benefits of working out can help children to develop so much more than their bodies. In the modern-day world of video games, social media, and all things-digital, it can be such an arduous task to simply motivate a child to spend time outside playing sports or doing anything physical. The advantage of working out is that it can easily be goal-based for kids. They can view new challenges in their workout program as a new level similar to what they aim to achieve in their favorite video games. Training with weights builds discipline and self-esteem. It teaches kids that adversity can be overcome and that hard work will pay off. While children are learning about the world around them, self-confidence is such a valuable tool to have at their disposal. It is the result of dedication to a challenging workout program that builds discipline and a passion for health and wellness. A child who is physically active with weight training and other forms of fitness will be better adjusted in other areas of his or her life such as school, sports, social interactions and more.
Working out also helps children and teens to positively channel high levels of youthful energy into a constructive activity. While they are building muscle, they are also relieving stress and simultaneously improving brain activity and memory function. Exercise induces the release of the stress hormone, norepinephrine, which is a vital part of how memory function works in the brain. Working out with weights can help young people to sharpen their mental skills, which could lead to better focus in school and better performance on academic tests, projects and assignments.
In the present day, there is such a high number of kids and adolescents being prescribed anti-depressant medications each day. The major challenge with this situation is the ongoing difficulty with finding effective treatments for depression in young people. Many young individuals are prescribed a number of different medications until their doctor finds a prescription that the child or adolescent responds to in a positive, healthy manner. Weight training for children and young teens could help to alleviate the need for medications related to depression. Resistance exercise naturally increases serotonin output in the brain, which leads to a positive feeling and a sense of wellness due to the release of endorphins after a workout. Weight lifting can help children and teens to adapt to mentally and emotionally challenging situations much better. They will be increasingly more well-adjusted and more emotionally stable when they are engaging in consistent workouts with weights each day.
Fitness is such a major component of so many adults’ lives, and now more than ever, children are seeing a great template for health and wellness from a very young age. Kids want to emulate their parents’ lifestyle routines and habits. This opens up a door of opportunity for parents to involve their children in sharing their fitness routine with them. If a child grows up with parents who expose him or her to working out as they develop during childhood, this will pay dividends for his or her health and overall wellness in adulthood. Kids who exercise regularly are generally happier, healthier and much more well-rounded than children who are sedentary. Giving children the gift of fitness will help them in almost every aspect of their lives. They will be able to enjoy their youth and live their young lives truly to the fullest.