Health & Fitness

Is Lifting Weights Bad for Children and Teens?


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Let’s admit it: We’re all a little skeptical when we see a child with six-pack abs walking around in a bodybuilding contest. The image comes across as unnatural, and prompts questions about whether or not children and teens should lift weights in the first place. After all, didn’t someone, somewhere say it can stunt a child’s growth?

Is Weight Lifting in Children Linked to Stunted Growth?

If you’re worried about stunted growth, you’re not alone.

Back in the 1970s, a study from Japan laid the foundation for the belief that hard, physical labor inhibits growth in adolescents. The research, which focused on child labor facilities, concluded that hours of heavy lifting seemed directly related to why a number of the children working had delayed development.

Over the course of the next decade, more anecdotal evidence seemed to suggest heavy lifting was bad for children; it was linked to everything from premature ossification, or hardening of cartilage, to muscle hypertrophy (those disturbing adult muscles on a 6-year-old).

All in all, muscle building in teens and children became a big no-no, and so much so, that even now this myth persists, despite the fact we have plenty of evidence it isn’t true.

The Facts about Strength Training for Children & Teens
Benefits of Lifting Weights for Teens and Children:

Weight lifting in children is beneficial, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and is recommended for children 8 and older as a safe, effective way to improve athletic performance and prevent injury.

“First, some literature suggests that children should not start weight lifting until the age of 14,” Bryan Hathaway, PT, certified MDT, who specializes in sports medicine therapy, tells saludmóvil™. “However, in the pre-14 years, there are many body-weight exercises that are safe and beneficial.

“Generally, there is a movement to get our kids active, exploring different sports and activities for their health. Strength training at this stage of life falls into this category.”

Hathaway also notes, “Typically, any body-weight activity is great.”

He recommends:

Push-ups
Planks
Lunges
Plyo (jumping activities)
Running

“Improvements can be seen in the efficiency of most all systems of the body,” he adds. “And there are emotional and mental benefits as well.”

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