We all know that childhood obesity is a major and growing problem in this country. While I’ve seen many good initiatives focus on getting more nutritious foods in kids’ diets and increasing activity at school and at home, one thing seems to be off of everyone’s radar: weight training! Although lifting weights had previously been thought to be only appropriate for adults- and perhaps even unsafe for youngsters- research from the last decade has proved otherwise.
In fact, when under proper supervision and training, it’s OK for children as young as 7 to try strength training. Contrary to beliefs of the past, lifting weights doesn’t stunt children’s growth. Instead, it actually strengthens bones and connective tissue, which can reduce the risk of injury when engaging in other physical activities. Not to mention that putting in a few reps in the school gym is far safer than playing tough contact sports like football.
While the science is there, I recently came across this article in the Los Angeles Times that makes the point that not only is resistance training good for kids, but also it may be the perfect exercise for overweight and obese children. The idea is that, unlike sports that require agility, coordination and usually favor a smaller and more fit physique, weight lifting is something that everyone can do. In addition, larger kids can usually lift more weight and therefore may be seen as more “cool” in the weight room.
Critics say that weight lifting doesn’t burn as many calories as traditional cardio- and they’d be right. However, the key piece that might be missing (and one that the LA Times article points out) is that getting these kids active in any way can build self confidence and self esteem. And when you do that? Their lives change for the better and healthier. Before you know it, they like exercise, want to do it and start trying new exercises and activities.
Overall, I think it’s a compelling argument and one that I believe is completely valid. Obviously what we’re doing isn’t enough, so why not try something new? Tell us what you think in the comments!