Is your little 6-year-old or 8-year-old asking you if he can work out and lift weights? If he is, you probably don’t know if saying yes is a good idea. Some people think children should exercise routinely, while others think they shouldn’t.
It is okay to feel comfortable with children working out and even getting involved in weight-lifting routines, as long as you don’t forget you need to keep a few things in mind at all times.
Since children are different from adults, their needs – both physiological and emotional – are different as well.
Children’s bones continue maturing until they are anywhere between 14 and 22 years old. Girls, for example, need to be extra careful when they perform exercises during childhood, because the wrong type of exercise could adversely impact their bones for the rest of their lives.
Children are very prone to developing growth related overuse injuries, such as is seen in Osgood schlatter disease. And, children don’t have full control of their inner thermostat since they have a large surface area in ratio to their muscle mass, and they can get hurt easily unless they have done enough warm up exercises.
And since children sweat very little, their risk of suffering from a heat stroke or heat exhaustion is much higher than for adults. Also, children have little muscle mass and a hormone system which still needs to mature, so their strength and speed are going to be limited. Their breathing and heart response is also quite different than that of an adult, so they are likely to respond differently to exercises.
However, young children are still able to benefit from weight training, as long as one keeps in mind that their gained strength is more the result of neurological factors than muscle growth.
If you are considering the possibility of letting your child work out, you should definitely have the child’s doctor administer a full physical first. The program you design should include repetitions in the range of 8 to 12, and the workload should be assigned making sure to keep the age of the child in mind.
It is also important to schedule rest periods of 1 to 2 days between workouts, to allow the child to rest and recuperate. When it comes to child training, form is definitely more important than the amount of weight lifted.
Ensure that there is a good amount of stretching done before weight training. Only allow your child to lift small loads in the beginning; those loads can be increased later on. Make sure you don’t schedule more than three workout sessions per week. And, make sure they get a good intake of water, before, during and after the workout. Drinking enough water is essential during any kind of workout routine, since it is easy to become dehydrated fast – in the case of children, dehydration can happen even more quickly.