They also shouldn’t play hockey, football, soccer, climb trees, play in the park, walk on ice, ride roller coasters, have fun, etc.
In Canada, 34% of children age 5 to 17-years-old are overweight or obese. And, because the uninformed general population keeps spreading the word that strength and conditioning isn’t helpful for weight loss, over 60% of Canadians aged 18 and above are overweight or obese. Not everyone loves to run, swim, or bike, but maybe after learning how to lift properly, they'll have a healthy alternative to safe/boring cardio, a.k.a. the skinny fat program.
The most common concern I hear as someone who works with athletes as young as 8-years old is, “lifting weights will stunt their growth. Aren't all professional gymnasts short because they do gymnastics?” To which I reply, “Correct, and all professional basketball players are tall because playing basketball makes you grow.”
I understand parental concerns for their kid’s well-being, but it would be helpful if more parents knew the facts while discussing the impact of resistance training on youth athletes. Here are some facts that I hope will help build an understanding of how strength and conditioning is actually affecting kids.
A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can:
Enhance the muscular strength and power of youth.
Improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth.
Improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance of youth.
Increase a young athlete’s resistance to sports-related injuries.
Improve the psychosocial well-being of youth.
Promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence.
Damn. The impact of a properly designed and supervised training program is actually a healthier, more coordinated, more confident, and less injury-prone young man or woman. End of debate. However, to really hammer it home, consider this: “To date, injury to the growth cartilage has not been reported in any prospective youth resistance training research study. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that resistance training will negatively impact growth and maturation during childhood and adolescence” (Faigenbaum et al., 2009, S62). By no means should you buy you kid a gym membership, drop them off, slap them on the butt, and say, “go get swole little buddy." Of course, there is a risk of injury inherent in exercise (that extends to the ice, the court, and the field), but this risk takes place in a supervised environment and is dramatically less likely to occur than during practice or competition. I know you are monetarily saving for your child’s future. Now, how about investing in their health and well-being as well?
Until next time,
Faigenbaum, A.D., Kramer, W.J., Blimkie, C.J., Jeffreys, I., Michelli, L.J., Nitika, M., & Rowland, T.W. (2009). Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 3(Supplement 5)/S60–S79.