Strength training can be a healthy component of kids' fitness

Marjie Gilliam / Cox Newspapers /

DAYTON, Ohio — Currently, nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight and 1 in 6 are considered obese, with poor dietary habits and lack of physical activity as chief contributors.

It has become acceptable in many households for children to spend countless hours watching television, playing video games or sitting in front of a computer, although most experts recommend no more than two hours daily.

The combination of fewer calories burned through exercise and an increase in snacking that occurs during these times adds up to extra weight and health problems over time.

The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition recently announced its Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP), focused on making kids healthy and active for life. The PYFP includes the Fitnessgram assessment, which helps to support each participating student as they pursue their personal fitness goals for lifelong health. Fitnessgram assesses cardiovascular fitness, body composition, muscle strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility, and is currently being used in all 50 states.

Along with cardiovascular exercise, appropriately designed and competently supervised strength and conditioning programs are acceptable for most youth. Generally speaking, if a child is able to participate in organized sports or activities, there is no reason to withhold the benefits that strength training has to offer them.

Youth strength/resistance training guidelines include:

• Ensuring that experienced qualified instructors and supervision are available.

• Training sessions begin with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up period.

• Employing relatively light weight loads with focus on proper form and technique at the beginning.

• Performing 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions, with a variety of upper and lower body strength exercises to work major muscle groups.

• Beginning with 2 to 3 times per week on nonconsecutive days.

• Including specific exercises to strengthen the abdominal and lower back.

• Strengthening balance and symmetrical muscular development should be taken into account.

• Assessing and re-assessing. Training programs should change from time to time depending on current needs, goals, and abilities and to help with motivation

• Increasing the amount of resistance gradually (approximately 5 to 10 percent) as strength continues to improve.

• Cooling down at end of exercise session with less intense exercise such as walking and gentle static stretching.

• Providing information to optimize performance and recovery, including healthy nutrition, proper hydration, and the importance of adequate sleep.

• Support and encouragement from instructors and parents will help maintain interest. The idea is to help children develop a lifelong interest in physical fitness and health.