It wasn't easy deciding what to blog about on my very first posting on "The Pica Perspective," but I came across an article yesterday that just begged to be commented on. The piece was titled "Personal Trainers for Kids on the Increase: Kids Working with Fitness Experts Hone Skills, Lose Weight, Get Healthy."
Anyone familiar with my work knows I'm all in favor of fitness for kids. In fact, it's one of my crusades. But this story worried me. With the children's obesity crisis raging (and it truly is a crisis) and more and more parents looking to help their kids become physically skilled, there are plenty of people willing to take advantage. These people will promise to "accelerate" your child's skill development or get him or her "pumped up." The problems are: It isn't possible to accelerate skill development...and strength training isn't appropriate for children under 12. Here's why the latter should be avoided if you have a young child:
- Children's bodies aren't fully developed. Therefore, strength training, handled improperly, can do more harm than good, particularly in children under 6, who are most prone to injury.
- Young children have short attention spans, meaning they don't have the motivation to endure the monotony of repetitive exercises.
- Young children don't yet have the cognitive ability to follow instructions and understand the risks and benefits of using strength-training equipment. The experts recommend children be at least 10 -- preferably 12 -- before handling strength-training equipment.
As far as accelerated skill development is concerned, there's no scientific evidence that getting an early start leads to improved performance. There is, however, research showing that children who learn skills when they're developmentally ready learn them more easily.
So, if you're concerned about your child's fitness, good for you! But if you're worried that you need an expert, in the form of personal trainers or organized programs, rest assured that it's much simpler than that. For young children, the best strength training involves the use of their own body weight in activities they'd be doing anyway...like running and jumping, pumping higher and higher on a swing, climbing the monkey bars, or playing tug-of-war. Yes, this might seem old-fashioned. But if you're like me, these were the kinds of activities you were doing when you were a kid...and there was no childhood obesity crisis back then.