Exercise is proven to be great for overall health, no matter the age. It’s important to remember, though, that some exercises are too strenuous for young bones and muscles, and fitness routines should be adapted so that they are appropriate to the age. Dr. Robert Klitzman, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Indiana University Health, weighs in on the topic.
“It’s important to be careful when placing strain on young muscles, tendons or growth plates that aren’t fully developed,” Klitzman says.
He suggests strength training with light resistance and controlled movements to learn proper techniques, mechanics and coordination instead of heavy weightlifting or bodybuilding at a young age.
“Strength training is not limited to free weights and machines,” Klitzman says. “Athletes can do body-weight exercises and train with an unloaded weight bar to practice proper mechanics and enhance coordination as well as proper muscle recruitment patterns before trying to add bulk. When done correctly, strength training can protect muscles and joints from sports-related injuries, improve an athlete’s performance and develop techniques that can be used throughout the athlete’s life.”
Proper technique is critical to safe strength training and Klitzman suggest that students start under the watchful eye of a professional, ideally a trainer or a coach. Student athletes should start at a weight that is comfortable and allows for proper form. Before getting started, parents should check with their child’s doctor, especially if he or she has a known or suspected health problem.