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THE BENEFITS AND CONSIDERATIONS OF WEIGHT TRAINING FOR KIDS: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

Mya Care Blogger 11 Sep 2023
THE BENEFITS AND CONSIDERATIONS OF WEIGHT TRAINING FOR KIDS: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

Sometimes children have questions about their health. Therefore this article was written as a resource for parents, to help explain the benefits and considerations of weight training for children. If you are a minor, please make sure you read this with the supervision of an adult.

For children's overall health and development, physical activity is crucial. It enhances their cardiovascular fitness, mental well-being, and cognitive abilities while also assisting children in developing strong bones, muscles, and joints.

Weight training is one type of exercise that is good for youngsters. Strength training, or weight training involves applying resistance to the muscles in order to challenge them and grow stronger. This guide will throw light on the benefits and considerations of weight training for kids, as well as how to develop a safe and effective weight training program for them.

Understanding Weight Training for Kids

Do you want your kids to have strong muscles and bones, better sports skills, and more confidence? Then you might want to introduce them to weight training.

Weight training is a fun and effective way to make the muscles work harder by using different kinds of resistance. Resistance can come from free weights, kettlebells, weight machines, resistance bands, or even the body itself. For example, kids can lift weights slowly and carefully, do push-ups, squats, or lunges with their own body weight, or pull and stretch elastic bands or tubes that create tension.[1]

Types of Weight Training Exercises

Kids can engage in a variety of weight training routines. These include bodyweight exercises, and those that use resistance bands, and light weights:

Bodyweight exercises are great for building muscles without any equipment. Kids can do them anywhere and change the difficulty level by changing the position or speed.

Exercising with Resistance Bands can make the workouts more interesting and challenging by targeting different muscles and changing the resistance level. They are also cheap and easy to carry around.

Using Light Weights can develop their muscular endurance, strength, coordination, and balance. They are not too heavy for kids to lift with good form and technique. Light weights can be dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, or even household items like water bottles or books.

4 Benefits of Weight Training for Kids

Weight training for kids can be beneficial compared to weight training for adults as it has a positive impact on development, helping pave the way for how they will approach health and fitness throughout their lives. The benefits are known to accumulate, meaning that the more exercise a child does in their formative years, the more the benefits will extend into their old age.

The main benefits that weight training offers are as follows:

  1. Enhanced Muscular Strength and Endurance. Weight training can help kids develop stronger and more resilient muscles that perform better in daily activities and sports. This also increases stamina and endurance, which means they can exercise longer and harder without getting tired.
  2. Improved Bone Health and Density. Kids who weight train have stronger bones and are less likely to acquire accidental breaks or fractures. Weight training applies stress to bones every time the muscle contracts, which makes for thicker, denser bones that last longer throughout life and help to prevent osteoporosis during old-age.
  3. Enhanced Sports Performance and Injury Prevention. Weight training can help kids improve their sports performance by enhancing their power, speed, agility, and balance. When coupled with stronger muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, weight training offers protection against injuries. This includes common overuse injuries that involve repetitive movements.
  4. Boosted Self-Esteem and Confidence. There are a few activities, like weight training, that can help kids feel good about themselves by improving their body image, self-esteem, and confidence. It can also help them cope with stress, anxiety, and depression by releasing endorphins (the feel-good hormones) in the brain.

At What Age Should Children Start Weight Training? 

There is no specific age requirement for weight training for kids. However, it is generally recommended that kids should be able to follow directions, maintain balance and postural control, and have an interest in strength training before starting a program. This is usually around age 7 or 8, but it depends on the child’s maturity level.[2]

It is also advisable to consult with a pediatrician or a sports medicine doctor before starting a program to rule out any medical conditions that may be contraindicated for weight training.

How to Develop a Safe and Effective Weight Training Program for Kids

The steps listed below might help you create a weight training program for kids that is both safe and effective:

Step 1: Establish Clear Goals

While you may know the benefits of weight training and want your child to start, it is very important to know what is motivating for them. If your child expresses interest, the first step is to determine what they want to achieve from weight training.

A useful mnemonic for establishing clear weight training goals is to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART). For example, a SMART goal could be to build muscular strength and endurance in the upper body by performing 10 push-ups in a row by the end of the month. This sets a time limit that allows the child to see actionable results that are within their realm of achievement.

Step 2: Structure the Child’s Training Sessions

The second step is to plan the training sessions with the appropriate components. A typical session should include a warm-up, strength exercises, and a cool-down, as described below:

  • Warming-Up should consist of 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity (such as jogging, skipping, or cycling) and dynamic stretches (such as arm circles, leg swings, or lunges) to prepare the body for the workout.
  • Strength Exercises should target the major muscle groups of the body (such as the chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and core) and vary in type, intensity, and duration.
  • The Cool-Down should consist of 5 to 10 minutes of low-intensity activity (such as walking, stretching, or breathing) to help the body recover from the workout.

Exercise ought to promote body control, alignment, breathing, and a full range of motion as well to avoid injuries.

Step 3: Supervising the Training

Step three demands supervising the child and making sure they adopt proper form and technique.

One of the most important aspects of weight training for kids is to ensure proper form and technique at all times. Muscle strains, sprains, rips, and fractures can result from improper form and technique. To prevent injuries, it is essential to supervise the child during weight training sessions and to correct any mistakes. You or the supervisor should be able to perform all the above exercises in order to show the child how to do them properly.

If short on time or inexperienced, a qualified trainer with experience in working with kids should guide the child through the exercises, provide feedback, and adjust the program as needed.

Step 4: Gradually Increase Exercise Difficulty and Intensity

The fourth step is to gradually increase the difficulty and intensity of the exercises as the child adapts and improves. This can be done by:

  • Increasing the number of repetitions, sets, or weight
  • Decreasing the rest time between sets or exercises
  • Changing the speed or tempo of the movement
  • Adding more complex or challenging exercises

Progression should be done carefully and gradually to avoid overloading or injuring the muscles.

Step 5: Encourage Proper Nutrition and Hydration

Lastly, the child should also drink lots of water and eat a balanced diet to support their weight training regimen. For muscle growth, regeneration, and recovery, nutrition and water are essential. A variety of foods with a focus on lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables should be a part of the child's diet. Water should be consumed before, during, and after every workout to avoid dehydration and replace fluids lost through perspiration.

Addressing Common Misconceptions

The below myths are common misconceptions about weight training for kids that need to be addressed:

Myth 1: Weight Training Stunts Growth

This myth is based on the assumption that weight training stunts or damages the growth plates, which are the areas of cartilage at the ends of the long bones that are responsible for bone growth. There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, weight training can stimulate bone growth and density by applying stress to them through the muscles. As long as it is done safely and appropriately for the child’s age and maturity level, weight training will never stunt a child’s growth.

Myth 2: Weight Training is Only for Athletes or Older Individuals

This myth is based on the belief that weight training is too intense or risky for kids who are not involved in competitive sports or who are still developing physically. This is simply not true. Weight training is not the same as weightlifting or power training, which are performed at a much higher intensity for athletes. As long as it is done with proper guidance and supervision, weight training can benefit all kids at any age by improving their health, fitness, and well-being.[3]

Rounding Out a Fitness Routine for Kids

While weight training can be a great way to enhance physical activity for kids, it should not be the only form of exercise they do. It is important to balance weight training with other forms of physical activity that promote cardiovascular health, flexibility, balance, coordination, and fun, such as:

  • Aerobic Exercise raises the heart rate and respiratory rate for a sustained period of time.

It promotes healthy development of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels in kids. Aerobics is also important to keep kids in shape and for preventing obesity and related diseases. Kids often enjoy these activities, which include running, swimming, cycling, dancing, or playing sports.

  • Flexibility Training stretches the muscles and joints to improve their range of motion. It prevents stiffness, soreness, and injuries, as well as supporting posture, alignment, and relaxation. Yoga, pilates, tai chi, or static stretching are examples of this type of training that kids are often keen to get involved in.
  • Outdoor Play helps to stimulate the child’s senses, imagination, creativity, and curiosity with the help of fresh air and natural light. Nature offers plenty of physical activities that kids and parents can both participate in, such as hiking, camping, gardening, or exploring.

By incorporating a variety of activities into their fitness routine, kids can enjoy a well-rounded approach to physical activity that enhances their overall fitness and skill development.

Conclusion

Weight training is a healthy form of exercise that can help kids increase their confidence, muscular strength, endurance, bone health, and sporting prowess. Developing a proper weight training program for kids requires careful consideration, guidance, and gradual progression to ensure safety and effectiveness. Parents and guardians should consult with medical professionals or certified trainers before starting a weight training program for their kids. Weight training ought to be balanced with other enjoyable activities that promote overall fitness and development. Weight training for kids can be a fun and rewarding way to enhance their health, well-being, and potential.

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Sources:

  • [1]https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/145/6/e20201011/76942/Resistance-Training-for-Children-and-Adolescents?autologincheck=redirected
  • [2] https://www.verywellfit.com/a-weight-training-workout-for-children-3498516
  • [3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758

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