Without a doubt, we know that exercise is good for us, right? Not just for adults, regular exercise should also form a key part of a child’s development.
We’ve already talked about how important exercise is in fighting the prevalence of obesity in our kids, but it’s something that every single child should be doing often, getting up from their computers and phones, and doing something that raises their heart rates and keeps them fit and healthy.
But should children be lifting weights and building muscles?
Exercise recommendations for children
The NHS recommends that children between 5 and 18 years old should get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day.
This should vary between moderate activities – such as walking to school or walking the dog, playing in the playground and gentle cycling – and more vigorous activities that involve running and jumping or exercises which raise the heart rate higher than normal, like swimming, playing football and energetic dancing.
On top of this, there are recommendations that 3 days a week children should participate in some kind of strength training for stronger muscles and stronger bones.
However, that does not mean that children should be lifting weights. They shouldn’t be bulking up and bodybuilding.
But they should be doing weight training, perhaps even using hand weights and barbells if their techniques are spot on and they’ve had appropriate training.
The benefits of strength training
When done correctly, strength training in children can:
- Build healthy muscles and joints by fortifying ligaments and tendons
- Strengthen bones and build bone density
- Boost performance and endurance
- Increase fitness levels
- Prevent injury
- Speed up recovery
What’s suitable for children?
If children are participating in sports at school, like gymnastics, football and athletics, then they should be fine to begin strength training.
For younger children, this could begin with something as simple as press-ups and sit ups, utilising their own body weight to develop their muscles. Gymnastics will naturally strengthen muscles, as will activities on the monkey bars and rope games like tug of war.
Other sports like martial arts, rugby, tennis, basketball, aerobics, skipping and badminton will also support muscle and bone development.
Increase resistance as kids progress. You could introduce resistance bands, then maybe add small weights as they get older and into high school.
For children over 11, weight training is acceptable. The weight lifted will naturally depend on the child’s size and ability, but they should always be able to lift any weight for between 10 and 15 reps. If they can’t lift the weight for a minimum of 8 reps it’s too heavy. Technique and safety are paramount.
Remember, take things gradually to avoid injury. Don’t push too hard – it should be fun, and don’t overdo it. Over exercising can lead to health problems too, including stress fractures and shin splints.
Need to get your children exercising more? Try some of the classes here at Hale Country Club & Spa designed specifically for kids!