The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a revision to their policy statement regarding resistance training for children online in May 2020. The policy statement (https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/145/6/e20201011) now says that children of all ages can benefit from resistance training with proper supervision.
The original policy was written in 2008 when there was not a whole lot of research on resistance training in children. Because of this, the AAP felt it was best to advise people to be careful; there might be some risk; we don’t want kids to overdo it.
When the policy statement was revisited, there was a lot more research showing the benefits and safety of resistance training if children were supervised and proper technique was followed.
Some of the benefits of resistance training include the following:
n increased muscle strength, power and local endurance
n Improved cardiovascular fitness, body composition, bone mineral density, blood lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity
n Increased resistance to injury and better mental health
Revised AAP Recommendations
n Consult a medical professional before beginning resistance training
n Consult a pediatric cardiologist for guidance, safety or possible modifications of resistance training if the child has a complex congenital cardiac disease
n Combine aerobic and resistance training
n Start youth with overweight or obesity on basic resistance exercises over a more aerobic program
n Include dynamic warm-up exercises and cool down with less intensive stretching
n Ensure an adequate fluid intake and proper nutrition
n Assess training and provide real-time feedback to minimize risk and maximize benefits
n Address all major muscle groups of the upper and lower body
n Account for time spent to reduce the risk for overuse injuries
n Incorporate weightlifting exercises into an exercise program
n Educate athletes about the risks for using performance-enhancing substances
n Enhance resistance training safety by using qualified and trained professionals who are aware of youth issues
n Use proper technique and supervision
It is not just about strength in general but a combination of building strength and focusing on the whole body with core strength, dynamic stability and balance control. Being able to do some of those movements at a young age with something as simple as a broomstick will help develop skills in the future.
Due to developmental differences, it is difficult to say at what age a child can begin resistance training. Many children begin participating in sports activities between ages 5 and 7 years and could probably begin some type of resistance training at this age.
Hopefully, families will be more confident in using resistance training with the children since there is so much more science showing its benefits and safely. Resistance training is not only beneficial to kids for sports performance, but also for general health. Resistance training can be seen as less of a risk and more of a benefit to overall health.