How many of us as adults wish we would’ve started exercising when we were younger? The extra pounds that inevitably come with age could have potentially been kept off and we would’ve gotten a head start on developing our fitness. It’s also much easier to keep up with a habit when you grew up with it.
But should kids workout? And if so, when is a good age to start?
You can find a sport to put your kid in pretty much as soon as they start walking, but it’s not always a good idea. Specializing in one specific sport at an early age can lead to overuse injuries by the time the child is a teenager, and young children can get stressed by competition. Instead, toddlers and preschoolers should focus on free-play and having fun [Link].
It’s been rumored that lifting weights can stunt children’s growth, but according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), there’s no evidence of that [Link]. This is provided that children are lifting weights appropriate for their age and under careful supervision. Kids shouldn’t be working with maximal loads or high intensity exercise, but light weights in the range of 12 to 15 reps done with proper form are safe and beneficial.
The age kids should start resistance training is often a question of maturity more so than physiology. Can the child listen to and follow directions? Can they behave in an orderly manner and follow safety protocols? Usually around the age of seven or eight kids are mentally prepared to start lifting weights [Link]. However, it is important to note that children younger than that might not have the coordination or balance to properly execute certain movements [Link].
Americans have increasingly struggled with sedentary lifestyles, and it’s not just the adults who are stuck behind a screen. Almost 42% of high school students spend three hours or more on a computer or playing video games [Link]. And nearly 25% of teens report watching three or more hours of TV a day [Link]. Spending hours a day sitting isn’t good for anyone, and incorporating daily exercise benefits kids as much as it does adults. Working out can help adolescents fight obesity, build strength, improve cognitive function, and grow stronger bones.
Soul knows the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle early on. That’s why we have a Youth Crossfit class that incorporates play, bodyweight movements, and light weights. Kids ages six and up can workout and have fun under close supervision.
Whether it’s sports, bootcamp, dance, or gymnastics, kids should enjoy whatever physical activity they partake in. And if parents set the example of exercising regularly, their children are more likely to absorb that mentality.
Depending on your stance, maybe you believe that kids should just be kids and not engage in formal exercise. But working out and lifting weights is a safe option for children, and regardless of what form it takes, no one will argue that kids and teenagers benefit from being active. We encourage children to find a physical activity they enjoy so they grow up strong and healthy and grateful they started early.