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Strength Training For Children: Healthy Or Unhealthy Choice?

Recently, as an assignment for my study program (HBO Sports Management), I had to write an argument. This argument had to reflect my vision on a sports-social issue. I myself am very interested in everything related to strength training and nutrition . I have therefore chosen to write an argument about a topic within strength training. I soon came to the next topic: strength training for children . It is a subject that was unclear to me in advance and I think this also applies to many others. I have immersed myself in the scientific studies on strength training for children and based on that described my vision. Curious? Then read on quickly!

Strength Training For Children?

“Like everyone else, you sometimes take a look at your Facebook feed and see all kinds of nice videos. Until you suddenly see an 8-year-old boy pushing up and pulling up , you are very curious and click on the video. It turns out to be two Eastern European boys of 6 and 8 years old. They do exercises that are already very difficult for an average adult person to perform. Curious about the reactions of others, watch how they react to the video.

Apparently the people who respond are not that positive about the video. Reactions such as ‘he is strong now but will not grow later’ and ‘I don’t really know what to think about this’ come over. Because of all the negative reactions, you also start to have doubts about how responsible those exercises actually are for the children. You almost automatically form an opinion based on other people’s reactions. For example, as with many other subjects, a negative image is formed about strength training for children. But to what extent is this negative image justified? ”

It is disappointing that opinions are formed without a person actually having knowledge of a particular topic. This is also the case with the video mentioned in the introduction. This negative image can prevent the elderly from having their children do strength training. But is the negative image of strength training for children justified? Is weight training bad for the development of children? I also asked myself these questions and came to the following statement:

Every Child Should Do Strength Training

Before looking at the advantages and disadvantages of strength training for children, the definition of strength training is given. According to Van Dale’s dictionary, strength training is as follows: ‘training with weights to increase physical strength’ . Strength training is almost always done in a gym.

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Benefits Of Strength Training In Children

First of all, strength training has a positive effect on the fat mass of the child. A study in 1997 among children showed that weight training decreased the fat percentage (et al, 1997). During the study, 52 young people who did strength training and 39 young people who did not train were considered as controls. The drop in fat percentage was mainly due to strength training, as the only cardio the subjects did was in the form of a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down.

Lowering the number of fat cells at a younger age appears to be very important. At a later age, the number of fat cells is particularly difficult to reduce, only the volume can then be changed (2004). If a child is overweight at a young age, he or she will always remain sensitive to this later on.

The fact that strength training for children helps to reduce fat mass can have a positive effect on Dutch society. Figures from Statistics Netherlands in 2012 show that obesity is increasing in the Netherlands. In 2011, approximately 41% of adults were overweight and approximately 11% of children and young people were overweight.

Strength Training For ChildrenPhysical Development Through Fitness

Strength training also has a positive effect on a child’s physical development. For example, strength training has been found to help increase bone density (et al, 1996). This occurs through repeated increased stress on the skeleton. The advantage of this pressure load is the stimulation of good development and healthy growth in the skeleton. It appears that this development can be better realized at a younger age.

The increased bone density also has a positive effect on reducing the risk of osteoporosis (bone loss) and osteoarthritis (joint wear, 2004). If a child also gets enough calcium, this effect is positively increased. In addition to increasing bone density, strength training also strengthens the child’s ligaments, tendons and muscles.

Major Effects Of Strength Training

In addition to lowering the fat percentage and stimulating physical development, there are a number of positive effects of strength training. Children benefit from this, but these also apply to other age groups. Some of the effects of strength training are listed:

Increase muscle strength

Increase muscle mass

Improve (muscle) endurance

Faster recovery after a muscle injury

Prevention / reduction of back pain by strengthening the trunk

Possibility of sport specific strength training

Improvement of coordination between muscles and nervous system

Especially the prevention of back pain is very important at a young age. The sooner one starts with the prevention of back complaints, the smaller the chance that one will suffer from it later. It turns out that 60-90% of Dutch people ever experience (low) back pain (topfit physiotherapy, 2012). 75% of these people return to their GP with the same complaints. Improving the coordination between muscles and nervous system is also a positive effect that benefits a child for the rest of his life.

Strength Training Is Safe For Children

A number of conclusions can be drawn from the above article. Strength training has a positive effect on a child’s fat percentage. It lowers the fat percentage when it is too high and also ensures that the child does not build up too many fat cells. These are very difficult to reduce later on.

In addition, strength training increases the bone density of the child, which has a positive effect on lowering the risk of osteoporosis and joint wear. Finally, there are the positive effects of strength training such as increasing muscle strength, mass and endurance, prevention of back pain and the improvement of coordination between muscles and nervous system.

The argument that strength training limits growth by damaging the growth plates can be undermined since strength training is often not the cause of the damage. The damage during strength training is often caused by incorrectly performing exercises. Incorrect technique leads to injuries, regardless of whether you are a child or an adult athlete. The chance that the growth plates will be damaged in sports such as football and basketball is even greater.

The argument that strength training leads to general injuries and even a hernia is also debunked. Research has shown that fitness is one of the most popular sports with relatively the fewest injuries. Sports such as running , field football and tennis appear to be more prone to injury than strength sports. In this view, strength training for children and young people is safe and will not lead to injuries.

Choose The Right Guidance!

It is important at all times that the strength training that is done by children is under the correct supervision. This reduces the chance of (serious) injuries. Strength training for children therefore appears to be only healthy. There are mainly many positive effects to be seen on the physical realm.