There's been a shift in the sports medicine world. Doctors used to believe that weight training at a young age was not a good idea and could be dangerous to the growth of a child. Recent studies disprove that idea, and now weight training, if done right, is even recommended for kids. Here's what parents need to know about kids hitting the weights.
A busy day at this gym includes lots of adults but just one child. Nine-year-old Taylor Fry works out with her personal trainer, Kari Pagenhardt. The goal is to get Taylor excited about exercise. They work together on a variety of strength training exercises. But, is this safe at such a young age?
"In general, if done right, if done well, it can help tremendously, and the converse is also true. If done wrong, it can do irreversible damage," says sports medicine physician Eric E. Coris, M.D., of University of South Florida in Tampa.
Dr. Coris says, for safe strength training with kids, focus on proper form, light weights, and higher repetitions. As for a trainer, find one who's certified, makes it fun, and doesn't focus on weight loss. He says, "You want to avoid the boot camp mentality. Really, what you want to do is instill in your children a lifelong appreciation for exercise."
While Taylor is trained, her mom, Debra, works out too. She says Taylor doesn't like physical activities, which has led to weight gain. "My bigger fear is that if she's 15, if I hadn't done anything to help her, that she'd look at me and say, 'Mommy why did you not do anything for me?'"
And in just two months, Taylor has made big steps. Her weight is down, confidence up, and balance and strength improved. "When she first started, she couldn't do a leg lift or one crunch, and now she can really do it," Kari says.
Taylor can also feel the benefits. She says, "I feel refreshed." And she says it's easy to come back, because it's fun.
Remember, with kids, bulking up is not the goal of weight training, so 12 reps to 20 reps of light weights are all they need. As for what age to start, experts say it depends on when the child is emotionally ready. Some kids may start as young as 6 years old, as long as they're trained and supervised with the right technique and use only light weights.
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