Child development is an integral aspect of human growth that we need to clearly understand in order to ensure our children benefit from a healthy start in life. This lays much of the foundations of a child’s health in the long term and subjecting your children to unhealthy foods, dangerous activities, and an unhealthy environment can have long-lasting and damaging effects.

One area of interest is whether or not weight training can actually stunt a child’s growth, and what the long-term effects of a child enduring weight training may be.

This is a relatively new area of research, however, we’re going to take a look at the science behind the lifestyle and see if weight training can actually stunt a child’s growth.

We first need to remember the fact that children are encouraged to exercise and play from an early age, this is essential for any developing child so why should weight training be any different?

What Is The Difference Between Weight Training And Exercise In Children?

Exercise can be attributed to pretty much any activity where a child actively moving, mainly during sports such as football, swimming, gymnastics, and other activities. Many of these require little training or skill in order to ensure the safety of the child.

Weight or resistance training requires a well trained and practiced technique in order to ensure the child is safe from harm.

When a child is generally active and playing, the risk of injury is small, when you add heavy weights to that equation, tension on muscles and tissues, this increases the risk of injury. Injuries can be minor, they can also be major with longer lasting effects.

Is There Any Evidence That Weight Training Can Stunt A Child’s Growth?

Allison M. Myers of Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine says:

“Proper RT programs have a plethora of associated benefits including increased strength, lower rates of sports-related injury, increased bone strength index (BSI), decreased risk of fracture and improved self-esteem and interest in fitness.” 

This recent study, carried out in 2017, showed that children and adolescents can greatly benefit from properly laid out training programs.

“For example, an athlete who runs track and an athlete who plays baseball may have similar goals in improving muscle strength but should have specific programs tailored towards the aerobic demands of each respective sport.”

Are There Any Risks To Children And Weight Training?

The same as you would expect an adult to encounter. Weight and resistance training can put enormous pressure and tension on the body, and if not executed correctly, can result in serious harm or injury. You should always ensure your child takes it slow to begin with (these training safety tips from a modern athlete could prove useful).

One specific injury children are prone to is an epiphyseal plate injury. This is also known as a child’s growth plate. If these suffer breaks or fractures then it could have long-lasting consequences if it does not heal correctly.

“A major risk that is mentioned any time childhood RT is discussed is the risk of epiphyseal plate injury.“

Resistance training for children and adolescents Study

These types of injuries to a child’s body could result in long-term deformities, “Injuries of this region of the bone can lead to early physeal closure and limb length anomalies as the non-injured arm continues to grow, and therefore are of significant concern for medical practitioners. “

However, it’s important to remember that children are at risk of these injuries with or without weight training. It just stands to reason that if your child is lifting heavy weights, the risk of this type of fracture could be increased.

Should My Child Be Weight Training And Will Weight Training Stunt My Child’s Growth?

Weight training will not directly stunt your child’s growth, however, there is an increased risk of injury to your child. Some of these injuries could have an effect on their growth plates which can cause growth deformities and anomalies.

However, studies have shown that if weight training is carried out correctly, and supervised, your child can benefit from increased strength, lower rates of sports-related injury, increased bone strength index (BSI), decreased risk of fracture and improved self-esteem.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t introduce your child to weight training at an early age, as long as it’s something they obviously wish to take part in. It is important for your child to have a medical checkup before taking part in any weight training, lifting activities to ensure they have no underlying health issues that could put them at risk.

Abbey Carlson, RD
Abbey Carlson, RD
Staff Writer at DietProbe
Abbey is a registered dietitian who specializes in human nutrition and obesity prevention.
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