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Strength Training in Children and Adolescents

Raising the Bar for Young Athletes??

By Katherine Stabenow Dahab, MD* and Teri Metcalf McCambridge, MD, FAAP


Competitive athletes and nonathletes alike may be interested in strength training for various reasons, including their athletic prowess and physique. Interested in off-season conditioning, parents and preadolescent athletes often turn their attention to strength training. These programs can benefit many children and preadolescents by improving not only their strength but also their bone density, balance, lipid profiles, fat-free mass, and personal self-esteem. Recent studies have focused on the benefits of strength training for children with cerebral palsy, thereby demonstrating improved daily function and self-esteem.



Exercise and sports are an important part of childhood. The lessons learned from team and individual sports are applicable throughout life. Children who establish regular exercise habits will ideally continue them into adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all school-aged children participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous developmentally appropriate physical activity each day.


The primary concerns regarding strength training are safety and its effectiveness. Health care and fitness professional groups—including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association—agree that a supervised strength training program that follows the recommended guidelines and precautions is safe and effective for children.


This review study sought to evaluate applicable articles and consensus statements regarding strength training in young athletes. Search results included studies indexed in PubMed and MEDLINE from 1980 through 2008. Also reviewed were consensus guidelines, position statements, and recommendations concerning strength training in youth from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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