strength training for kids
Sports / Orthopedic

Strength Training for Kids: What is Safe for Them to Do

May 20 2024

Most kids are naturally active and take part in organized sports by the time they are seven or eight years old. However, is strength training for kids safe?

“Being creative to allow your children to remain active is very important,” says Matthew Busam, MD, Mercy Health physician, orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon and chief medical officer for FC Cincinnati.

When can children begin strength training?

Seven to 8 years old is the same age that pediatric medicine experts agree is safe for your child to start resistance training to build strength.

Before participating in any strength training, the American Academy of Pediatrics says parents should ensure 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. Younger children may not listen and could hurt themselves.

Strength training for kids: Where to start

If your child is interested in strength training, they will need 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, such as light weights or resistance bands, until they have the technique down.

“When you are doing a variety of low-resistance and bodyweight exercises properly and with good form, you will use all the muscle groups in the upper and lower body, back and core,” Dr. Busam says. “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.”

Can strength training for kids be harmful for their development?

Some people have expressed concern that weight training hurts the growth cartilage. However, Dr. Busam says there is no scientific data to support that.

“Strength training can benefit kids’ overall health, including their cardiovascular health and ability to perform individual and team sports. It also introduces them to a healthy lifestyle habit,” Dr. Busam shares.

Physical activity is a huge component of overall health. Strength training exercises use major muscle groups to build muscle and develop lean body mass. However, inactive children can become inactive adults.

“More than 70 percent of kids drop out of youth sports by the age of 13. That correlates with 70 percent of the adult population being obese or overweight,” Dr. Busam says.

While some kids leave organized sports because they don’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,” Dr. Busam says. “It’s important for parents to set a 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.”

How we can help

Before starting a strength training program, consider getting your child a sports physical. This allows your child’s primary care provider to evaluate their physical readiness to participate as well as identify any potential health risks. However, if you have any additional concerns or your child is injured, you can make an appointment with their primary care provider or reach out to a sports medicine specialist.

Learn more about the orthopedics and sports medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.

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