A common misconception is that resistance training will stunt children’s growth. It is commonly believed that resistance training is unsafe for children, and should be avoided until they reach adolescence.
We now know the opposite to be true. Research shows that regular resistance training is in fact safe, and encouraged for children. Research shows that there is no interference with growth plates when children engage in strength training. Regular resistance training still allows normal growth and development to occur, and actually facilitates motor control and growth.
There are many reasons why structured resistance exercise may benefit children:
- It can help to improve confidence and body image.
- It can help improve overall physical activity levels and minimise screen time.
- It can help improve engagement with peers and provide a sense of community and belonging.
- It can help improve other sporting activities they may be engaged in.
- It can help reduce fear around movement and exercise, helping to develop healthy habits as they age.
- It can assist in reducing childhood obesity and disease.
- It develops healthy movement habits for the long-term.
While it is safe for children to engage in resistance training, there are still some considerations we need to make:
- Is the child actually interested in starting resistance training? If they aren’t, it’s probably worth finding another activity they enjoy.
- Is the child developing basic movement patterns that can be developed as their confidence and motor control improves?
- Is the child being supervised by an exercise professional? Direct supervision is key when children learn to exercise in the gym.
- Are there any motor control deficits or health considerations to be made?
- Is the child also engaging in daily vigorous cardiovascular exercise? This is really important and usually comes in the form of games and play time.
- Are we ensuring that the focus is on how well the child moves and how healthy they are, rather than how much they weigh or look?
With inactivity and obesity on the rise, it’s so important that children engage in some kind of physical activity each day.
By complimenting regular cardiovascular activity with resistance training from a young age, we can set some great habits early! Be sure to set the focus on how good it feels to move, rather than how you look we can set these children up for long term success!