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Can kids train with weights?

There were two questions that needed to be answered before any child could be allowed to train with weights. Is it effective and more importantly is it safe.

Until recently there had been very little research done that could address these concerns. That is why most parents and PE teachers have quite rightly shied away from strength training with children.

There has always been a belief that strength training could stunt the growth of a child and that no one should use weights under the age of 12. Yet all the latest research from the leading fitness and medical institutions in the US has shown that there is absolutely no evidence to support this idea. In fact they now recommend strength training for kids as long as they are correctly taught and supervised.

So what age can a child start? It appears they can train with weights as soon as they are able to understand and follow instructions. Most professionals feel this is around the age of seven or eight.

We now know that it is safe for kids to weight train but are there any real benefits. Well it appears that the benefits are similar to those for adults, improved fitness, stronger bones, a leaner physique and more injury resistant. The children themselves will probably focus on the social aspect more than the benefits, long-term good health means very little at their age, but what it will do is improve their attitude to lifelong activity.

Another compelling argument for kids strength-training programmes is that significant improvements have been seen in the self-esteem, mental discipline and socialisation of children who participate.

Those who benefit most and excel at lifting weights are those who are overweight or obese. These children typically struggle with the popular team sports of football, rugby and basketball where a certain amount athleticism and co-ordination are required and often feel ostracised. However weight training provides an opportunity for these children to shine above their classmates and perform well on an individual basis. What a great boost to their self-esteem-and to those who need it most.

It is important that children learn correct technique, understand the basics of weight training and are motivated. Kids love to learn and so a varied programme always works best. Never push to hard, its better to underestimate their potential than over estimate. Not only is this safer, but it also prevents them getting disheartened and allows room for progress.

Finally it should be fun, if they enjoy it, they will want to do it. Then it won’t be long before they feel and see the results and hopefully working out becomes as much a part of their lives as cleaning their teeth.

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