Children as young as six should be encouraged to do weightlifting to improve their strength, motor skills and mental health, according to experts.
Professor Avery Faigenbaum from The College of New Jersey’s department of health and exercise science said resistance training in childhood could also reduce the risk of sports injuries.
Professor Faigenbaum — a speaker at the International Conference on Strength Training hosted by Edith Cowan University in Perth this week — disputes advice that weightlifting should not be started until after puberty.
Despite fears about children being too young to do resistance training, research showed the importance of improving muscular fitness at an early age and continuing with strength-building activities throughout life.
He said physical inactivity in children was a major concern, contributing to a range of cardio-metabolic, musculoskeletal and psychosocial risk factors.
“Although there is no minimum age requirement at which children can begin resistance training, all participants must be ready to comply with coaching instructions and undergo the stress of an exercise program,” he said.
“In general, if boys and girls are ready for sport activities around the age of six or seven years then they are ready for some type of resistance training.
“In addition to enhancing muscular strength and motor skill performance, resistance training can increase bone mineral density, improve cardiovascular risk factors, facilitate weight control and prepare inactive youth for the demands of physical activity and sport.”
Professor Faigenbaum said training programs needed to be effective and challenging for children, but also fun. They should be supervised by qualified fitness professionals.
Go Kotani, 7, started resistance training almost a year ago, initiated by his father Yosuke Kotani, an athletic trainer and ECU PhD candidate. “It is safer compared to the sudden stopping while playing footy, soccer and basketball . . . and it teaches discipline,” he said.