It is commonly accepted that children should participate in daily physical activity. Regular physical activity is necessary for system loading to promote healthy growth and development, as well as to prevent the onset of future chronic illnesses. Aerobic activities such as running, cycling and swimming are encouraged; however, there is a dogma with the inclusion of resistance training (RT) in younger individuals. Research, though, continues to present confounding evidence of the benefits to children unique to this form of training.
The National Strength and Conditioning Associated (NSCA) has produced many papers regarding the protocols and efficacy of RT in children. They have concluded that a properly designed and supervised resistance training program:
- is relatively safe for youth,
- can enhance the muscular strength and power of youth,
- can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth,
- can improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance of youth,
- can increase a young athlete’s resistance to sports-related injuries,
- can help improve the psychosocial well-being of youth,
- can help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence.
One of the main concerns of parents with children performing RT stems from a report by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance Systems (NEISS). NEISS utilised data from ER departments for projections of total injury numbers related to exercise and equipment. The injuries sustained were from such factors as erroneous training techniques, excessive loading or just lack of qualified adult supervision. Therefore, to simply conclude that RT is dangerous to children is fallacious.
Current findings have demonstrated that RT has a low risk of injury when adhering to age or skill-appropriate guidelines. Amongst the large body of literature, there are no reports of overt injuries. This is not to say that RT does not carry any risk of injury. However, the risk is no greater than many sports or recreational activities commonly undertaken by children.
So what are some of the benefits to children who participate in resistance training? RT can:
- increase muscular strength and power,
- enhance wellbeing (physical and psychosocial),
- improve cardiovascular risk profile,
- modulate body composition,
- strengthen bones,
- improve motor skills,
- and increase injury tolerance!
It has also been projected that participation can help positively influence a healthier lifestyle in a child’s adult life. So RT has the potential to facilitate optimal bone and muscle growth, improve well-being and promote longevity of a healthier lifestyle in children.
Faigenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J. R., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). YOUTH RESISTANCE TRAINING: UPDATED POSITION STATEMENT PAPER FROM THE NATIONAL STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING ASSOCIATION. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(5), S60-S79.