By Dr. Alison Shuman M.D. F.A.A.P
Director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine


Here’s the deal.
Exercise is good for you.
Strength training is really good for you.
This is true no matter what age you are.
So what does that mean? Strength training is actually good for kids, too.
I’ve been a practicing Pediatrician since 2003, with 2 years of training in Pediatric Critical Care and have been the Director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Community Memorial Hospital since 2012 and will be taking over as Chair of the Pediatric Department starting in January 2019.  I see on a daily basis the damage and consequences brought on by the obesity epidemic in America and how our diet and sedentary lifestyles are negatively impacting our youth.
While there has been concern in the past about injuries in children related to lifting weights, many studies show that children who engage in strength training on an appropriately supervised program do not have increased risks for injuries, and, in fact, can have multiple benefits.
Children’s balance and postural skills mature to adult levels by age 7 tp 8 years of age, so there is not reason specific strength training cannot be started at this time.  Initially, movements should be learned without a load and then, as movement patterns become perfected, loads can be incrementally increased safely. For gains in strength to occur workouts need to be 20-30 minutes long (minimum) and take place 2-3 times per week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed a policy that supports pediatric strength training with appropriate supervision and the above approaches.  In addition, very few children need to have restrictions placed on their activity, so if you are concerned speak with your child’s physician so they can do a medical screening for these conditions ( they include things like Marfan’s syndrome, preexisting high blood pressure, or a history of having received certain types of chemotherapy, so all very rare things!)
Common myths:

Strength training results in loss of flexibility Research shows that strength training does not decrease flexibility and that incorporation of a stretching program has resulted in improved flexibility.
Strength training is dangerous to growth plates. Strength training is not harmful to the growth plates when done in supervised settings using low weight and high repetitions. In fact, research shows that it is safer than playing soccer, football, and basketball.
Strength training will not result in an increase in strength until puberty. Well-designed strength training programs of at least 8 weeks’ duration can increase strength by 30% to 50%. However, in young athletes, these changes happen by changing how the muscle works rather than increasing the muscle size.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses strength training for children with very specific guidelines, most of which I’ve already mentioned.  In addition, class sizes should be in a ratio of no more than 10:1 (student:teacher) and the coach should be certified.
Strength training isn’t just “ok” for kids, it’s great for them and gives them skills, both physical, emotional and social, that will help them succeed later in life, and will help guarantee that they have an early start on a road to lifelong health.  Anyone who has seen the kids and teens class at the gym has seen the amazing comradery, sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm it creates for the kids participating, and that is an amazing thing. AS a pediatrician, I couldn’t support the idea more!