Make Strength Training a Family Affair
For adults, strength training can mean visible results – preserving muscle mass during weight loss, elevating metabolism to help you lose weight more easily and lowering blood pressure. So if you’re incorporating strength training into your exercise routine, it won’t take long before your kids want to join in. Done properly, strength training gives children as young as 8 a great start to a lifetime of better health and fitness.
Active play helps children improve their body awareness, control and balance.
They can also increase muscle strength and endurance by adding strength training as early as age 8 – provided they’re mature enough to follow directions and be diligent about technique and form. Check with your pediatrician before your child begins any strength activities.
Done properly, strength training can help protect your child’s muscles and joints from injury; improve his/her sports performance; strengthen bones; boost metabolism to help maintain a healthy weight; promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels; and give your child a sense of success without outside competition.
Don’t think of your child’s strength training program as a scaled-down version of your own.
Many of the exercises can be done with body weight alone or using inexpensive resistance bands. Keep in mind:
• Find a coach or personal trainer with experience working with youths who
can create a safe, effective strength training program based on your child’s
age, size, skills and sports interests. Look for special strength training classes
designed for kids at fitness and community centers.
• Encourage your child to warm up and cool down. Just like adults, kids should
begin each strength training session with five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity,
such as walking, jogging in place or jumping rope. This warms the muscles and
helps reduce the risk of injury. Remind them to do gentle stretching as a cool down
after each session, too.
• Keep weights light. You can allow kids to safely lift adult-size weights, as long as
the weight is light. Generally, it’s safe for kids to do one set of 12 to 15 repetitions
with light weights. They don’t always have to use weights either. Resistance
tubing/bands and body-weight exercises like push-ups, lunges and squats can
be just as effective.
• Focus on technique not pounds. Stress proper form and technique during
each exercise. Encourage your child to gradually increase the resistance or
number of reps as he/she progresses.
• Adult supervision is critical. Never let your child work out alone.
• Give it a rest. Enforce a rest period of at least one full day between exercising
each specific muscle group. Two or three strength training sessions a week
• Vary the routine. Prevent boredom and keep it fun, turning strength training a
lifetime activity – not a chore.
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