Most kids are naturally active and taking part in organized sports by the time that they are seven or eight years old. However, some of these activities are now on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Especially during this time of more limited sports options and gym closures, being creative to allow your children to remain active is very important,” says Mercy Health Physician Matthew Busam, MD, and orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon and chief medical officer for FC Cincinnati.
Seven to eight years old is the same age that pediatric medicine experts agree is safe for your child to start strength or resistance training.
“Physical activity is a great outlet when organized sports leagues may be canceled or limited,” shares Dr. Busam. “Internet-based classes or online videos are good places to start. Many of them provide excellent instruction and use nothing more than body weight for exercises.”
Before participating in any strength training, the American Association of Pediatrics says parents should make sure their child’s balance and postural control are developed enough that the child won’t fall over. Your child should also be mature enough to accept instructions on how to do things safely. If they are too young, they may not listen and could hurt themselves.
Finally, if your child expresses an interest in strength training, they will need to have access to proper instruction and the right equipment to ensure they can train safely. In the beginning stages, you’ll want your child to focus on low resistance activities until they have the technique down.
“When you are doing a variety of body weight and low resistance exercises properly and with good form, you will use all the muscle groups in the upper and lower body, back and core,” says Dr. Busam. “If your child is interested, I recommend a 20 to 30-minute high repetition, low resistance exercise session every other day. Again, good form is vital to prevent injury.”
Some people have expressed concern about weight training hurting the growth cartilage. However, Dr. Busam says there’s no scientific data to support that.
“Strength training can benefits kids’ overall health, including their cardiovascular health and ability to perform individual and team sports. It also introduces them to a healthy lifestyle habit,” shares Dr. Busam.
Physical activity is a huge component of overall health. And unfortunately, inactive children typically become inactive adults.
“More than 70% of kids drop out of youth sports by the age of 13. That correlates with 70% of the adult population being obese or overweight,” says Dr. Busam.
While some kids leave organized sports because they didn’t enjoy the activity, a benefit of resistance or strength training in childhood is that it can translate to an adult activity.
“I recommend introducing strength training as a healthful activity you can enjoy together,” says Dr. Busam. “It’s important for parents to set good example for what a healthy lifestyle looks like. If you like strength training, let your kids do things with you. Kids want to be with their parents.”
Learn more about the orthopedics and sports medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.