Let’s Get Fit

lets get fit

Let’s Get Fit

The message that weights are bad for young people has caused the general public to distrust strength training.  I believe that strength training for children is good and should not be discouraged.  We now know that strength training is a safe activity for children and adolescents and is a good way to improve muscular fitness, body composition, weight maintenance, strong bones, fitness habits, and psychological health.  While there are potential disadvantages associated with weight training, these are typically associated with incorrect training.  I firmly believe that the advantages far outweigh any negatives.

Increasing childhood obesity is one of the reasons why exercise recommendations are being made.  Exercise is an important part of childhood, the lessons learned from exercise are applicable throughout life. Children who establish regular exercise habits will ideally continue them into adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all kids and adolescents should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.

In fact, the ideal weight-training program for many children need not involve physical weights at all. “The body doesn’t know the difference between a weight machine, a medicine ball, an elastic band, and your own body weight,” Dr. Faigenbaum said.  The World Health Organisation and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree muscle-strengthening physical activities are important for the health and well-being of young people. These recommendations are based on a large body of evidence demonstrating the unique benefits of strength training. Stronger kids have a healthier heart, lower body fat, stronger bones, and higher self-esteem.

The negatives are related to injuries caused by strength training such as epiphyseal plate fractures and lower back injuries.  Children sometimes fool around and competition between friends or other children in training groups can lead to the selection of weight that is too heavy.  The use of poor technique can also lead to injury.  So, if your child is lifting weights, always be aware of safety requirements including proper technique and appropriate weight selection.  If children are given a well-designed and supervised program, then a few problems will arise during workouts or in the longer term.

Until recent years, there was very little data on injuries associated with youth strength training. What did exist, however, were a handful of case reports outlining serious injuries from misuse of weight training equipment, and a few small studies reporting high injury rates in competitive youth weightlifting and powerlifting programs.  A recent study found while parents are positive about their children engaging in aerobic activities, they have much more negative views when it comes to strength exercises.  In fact, appropriately conducted strength training programs have a much lower risk of injury than many popular youth sports like soccer, football or basketball.

These are all activities that parents happily enroll their children year after year. Ironically, participation in strength training can actually reduce the risk of children being injured when they play sports.  Strength training, when performed in a controlled, supervised environment, can help children and adolescents of all athletic abilities safely improve their strength and overall health and well-being. The health benefits of strength training far outweigh the potential risks, especially today where childhood obesity continues to rise.

For the past 18 years, I have been training to be a professional ballerina.  My mom danced and so I was just born into it.  Fitness has become such a huge part of my life.  While ballet is incredibly demanding physically, over the past couple of years my body has changed so much as I’ve begun working out.  Cross-training has helped improve my overall strength and stamina.  It has also helped overcome specific weaknesses and make me a more well-rounded dancer.

Over the past year, my body and mind have become very dependent on hot yoga.  I go 6 to 7 times a week and my day just isn’t the same without it.  On top of yoga, I do at least an hour of cardio a day and different free weights.  If I am ever feeling upset, or sad, or stressed I know that all I must do is go and sweat it out and I always feel so much better afterward. I have seen the difference that strength training has made in my life, which is why I believe that if children and adolescents can get into a habit of exercising it will have a huge impact on their lives.