Human society has evolved through the centuries with an aim to improve quality of life. Machines have been created or livestock engaged to perform what humans did previously. Our ancestors heaved, pulled, lugged, lifted, hammered and carried heavy weights or undertook back-breaking work in farms, factories and households. All that is a thing of the past now! Machines have eased human life to a large extent in the modern world.
The one downside to this evolution is that in the last hundred years, children across the world are being exposed to less physical labour than their forefathers. Further, since the 1950s, a rigorous schooling curriculum and technological advances such as the TV, Internet and mobile phones have created entire generations of children who live a sedentary lifestyle.
Weight training or strength training for children is seen by many as a panacea to these ills. But there are various myths and false notions around strength training for children that is preventing their mass adoption. It’s time to dispel those myths and pave the way for healthy generations of adults.
Myths around strength training for children
Strength training in children leads to stunted Growth
Some scientists and doctors argue against weight training for children because of a medical phenomenon known as ‘premature epiphyseal fusion’. The long bones in children have a plate of cartilage between them that acts as padding. The plate gradually disappears or fuses with the bone as children grow. Strength training, some scientists argue, rapidly accelerates this fusion. However, this is not entirely true. The epiphyseal fusion happens gradually, not overnight, and does not cause any damage as long as the child is not overdoing the weight-training.
My children will not grow tall if they take up strength training
A very common myth again! The height of a person is determined by his/her genes, race, diet and level of physical activity. Weight training adds another dimension to your child’s development by strengthening his/her neuromuscular growth and development. This goes a long way in making your child a strong and healthy adult.
Strength training could cause serious Injuries to children
Needless to say, children who take up strength or weight-training should be constantly monitored to ensure they don’t overdo the regimen, or injure themselves by wrongly handling the equipment. Further, weight-training is an incremental process and the child cannot lift any more weights than he/she is currently able to. All these factors make strength training safe for children. In contrast, many sports cause injuries such as fractures, sprains, bruises, ligament tears and muscle pulls that can take some time to heal.
There is a certain age to start weight training, else it’s useless
The argument here is that testosterone starts producing in the body from the mid-teens onwards and this is what helps in muscle growth. While this is partially true, strength training from age 7 years onwards strengthens the bones, the benefit of which lasts up to the old ages, when testosterone production drops rapidly. Muscle coordination, gait, posture, balance, fitness, resilience and overall strength improve in children who do weight training, testosterone or no testosterone.
Strength-training equipment are not designed for children
Not necessary. While heavy barbells are not advised for children, there are smaller medicine balls, kettle bells and low-weight dumb-bells that children can handle. Further, strength-training does not meanlifting weightsonly. Monkey bars and exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, skipping and running also come in the category of resistance training.
My child will look bulky and funny
Weight training exercises vary in style and function. Unless your child is doing those exercises that specifically create bulky muscles, he or she will not develop body-builder like muscles. However, he/she will be fitter, stronger and healthier overall, the benefits of which can last up to old age.
Weight-training is safe and beneficial to children.. If your child is capable of respecting instructions from a qualified adult, he/she will be supervised and guided all through the process. Invest in a trainer who has expertise in this area, and you can see your child develop into a healthy, smart and confident adult