Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is it safe for my son to lift weights?"
My son is only 12 years old and he wants to start lifting weights at his school. Is this safe for his body? Could he do permanent damage to his muscles by working out and lifting weights at a young age?
It is generally not a good idea for children this age to engage in free weight lifting, at least not to a very great degree. First of all, children's physiology before they get into puberty is not suited for building muscle mass, so weight lifting will likely not have the desired effect. Second, the joints and tendons in a child's body tend to be looser and more flexible than in an adult, which means that maximal weight lifts have an increased chance of causing injury. Children this age can engage in strength training. However, this should focus on isometric exercises and, if weight are used, they should be light ones (or, preferably, resistance training rather than free weights) without a focus on coming close to maximal lifts. Children should always be closely supervised when they are performing strength training to make sure that they remain safe and that they do not injure themselves. Finally, strength training should always constitute only a small portion of the exercise that a child engages in. At this age, aerobic exercise to maintain fitness and a healthy weight are very important, and strength training does not provide these benefits. I recommend talking to your pediatrician about your child's exercise regimen for more specific information!
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