AAP: Kids can benefit from resistance training with proper supervision
The AAP issued a revised policy statement regarding resistance training, saying children of all ages can benefit from it under the proper supervision.
Paul R. Stricker, MD, FAAP, a youth sports medicine specialist at Scripps Clinic in San Diego, said the original policy was written at a time — in 2008 — when “we were pretty much ... always telling people to be careful, there might be some risk, we don’t want kids to overdo it.”
“When it came due for us to revisit this report, it was really exciting,” Stricker told Healio. “We’ve already kind of proven that it’s safe, if the conditions of supervision and technique are well followed. Now there’s a lot more research on the benefits.”
Some benefits of resistance training include increased muscular strength, muscular power and local muscular endurance, improved cardiovascular fitness, body composition, bone mineral density, blood lipid profiles, insulin sensitivity in overweight youth, and increased resistance to injury and mental health, Stricker and colleagues noted.
The revised AAP recommendations, as outlined by Stricker and colleagues, include:
- Consult a medical professional before beginning resistance training.
- Consult a pediatric cardiologist for guidance, safety or possible modifications of resistance training if the child has a complex congenital cardiac disease.
- Integrate aerobic and resistance training into exercise training.
- Start youth with overweight or obesity on basic resistance exercises over a more aerobic program.
- Include dynamic warm-up exercises and cool down with less intensive stretching.
- Have an adequate intake of fluids and proper nutrition.
- Assess training and provide real-time feedback to minimize risk and maximize benefits.
- Address all major muscle groups of the upper and lower body.
- Account for time spent to reduce the risk for overuse injuries.
- Incorporate weightlifting exercises into an exercise program.
- Educate athletes about the risks for using performance-enhancing substances.
- Enhance resistance training safety by using professionals who are qualified, trained, and aware of aspects of youth.
- Use proper technique and supervision.
“In reality, when we're thinking about strength in general in kids, it's a combination of not only building strength, but [addressing] the whole body with core strength and dynamic stability and balance control and all those kinds of things,” Stricker said. “Being able to do some of those movements at a young age with something as simple as a broomstick is helping to develop skills rather than to put them at risk, and we see how that kind of fits more of an overall program.”
Stricker and colleague said it is difficult to say what age a child can begin resistance training because of developmental differences. They noted that many children begin participating in sports activities between ages 5 and 7 years, and that it is acceptable to think that children in this age group could also begin some type of resistance training.
“My big hope is that families will be more confident in the fact that there's so much science out there to support that this can be done safely and that there are multiple benefits to that,” Stricker said. “I'm really hoping we can encourage families [the resistance training has] an overall health benefit to kids not only for sports performance, but for just general health. Resistance training can be seen as less of a risk and more of a benefit to their overall health.”