Weight Training for Kids

Here’s an interesting article that highlights some recent research that has provided detailed evidence and clarity in an area that has often been subject to a lot of myth – namely, whether or not weight training is safe for children.

I have to admit that I was fairly firmly in the ‘not good’ camp when it came to perceptions about whether weight training was good for kids. However, there’s a lot in the article that makes a lot of sense.

New York Times Blog article

That said, I want to stress that it doesn’t mean that any time soon I’m going to be advocating that we install lakhs worth of gym equipment, nautilus multi-gyms etc. Some of the reasons are in the article, some are in the nature of our school.

The article highlights that any benefits from weight training for children come only when it is supervised. If such equipment is put in to schools you have to be very sure that there are no circumstances under which children will get access unsupervised. A few years ago I heard of a boy in a boarding school who got in to the habit of entering the gym at night through a window. one night he injured his back on the equipment and was not found for some hours!

Supervision means highly trained supervision. It also means that where our school caters to the needs of children over such broad age ranges it would be near impossible to have a gym that was ‘child safe’ at all ages. By its nature, gym weight training equipment can only be used by very small numbers of students at a time. As an urban school we have to continually think about the optimal use of space. It would also represent a very big outlay of funds for equipment to be used by relatively small numbers of students.

I believe the article contained answers, that actually reminded me a great deal of some of the activities of my own PE classes right back to elementary school days, including the use of medicine balls for resistance training, press ups and other exercises where the body’s own weight is used. These can be further added to by exercises in pairs where the colleagues weight provides the resistance. To me, this is very compatible with an approach to PE which is far more about building strength, stamina, body awareness, flexibility and suppleness. Games and sports would be kept for other, quite separate sessions and would benefit from the development of these skills through PE.

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