By Sigurd Neubauer
If you’re wondering at what age it is safe to introduce your child to the gym and the wonderful world of fitness, we sat down with John Kecman, a seasoned personal fitness instructor at the Aspen Hill Club in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“Kids as young as five can do resistance training. They start playing organized sports around that time,” Kecman explains while pointing out that organized sports present a higher risk for injury than fitness. “There’s no reason from a physiological perspective that children cannot do resistance training. But at the same time, the fitness instructor cautions that if children cannot follow directions or coaching, then it is not suitable to bring them to the gym. “If a child doesn’t have body awareness it means that he or she is more prone to injury and unable to progress.”
“Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles. Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when they are required to do so. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger, according to the Australian government’s Better Health Channel.
Kecman points out that what it comes down to is the maturity of the child. Although a five-year-old can build muscles, and has the body weight to do so because he or she is capable of moving, he recommends the ideal age of introducing a child to the gym is eight. “A five-year-old can do it, but because of his maturity – or lack thereof – it is a rarity, which is why I recommend the age of eight.”
Once the child is considered adequately mature to bring to the gym, Kecman recommends the following exercises:
- Bodyweight exercises
“If the child is eight once you bring it to the gym, the likelihood is that he or she has been playing some sort of competitive team sport for the past three years. These exercises, which I suggested above, is what they’re already doing in their sport practices.”
Moreover, he says, “since we move our body every day when we start with resistance training one should start with the mastery of our own bodyweight.” This, Kecman explains, is what we’re already doing when practicing our favorite sport.
“Children can lift weights as the youngest age group for powerlifting is from seven to 11, which applies for both boys and girls.” The risk of injury from resistance training is lower than team sports, he repeats but points out that it does not only include bodyweight training but all types of resistance training.
“A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as aerobic exercise to improve your heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance exercises,” according to the Australian government’s Better Health Channel.
Once you’ve brought your child to the gym, Kecman recommends a simple warmup regimen that is similar to the sports that the child practices to increase blood flow through dynamic warm up. Dynamic warmups also help prevent injury, he emphasizes.
For a cooldown regiment, Kecman recommends stretching and starting stretching for 30 seconds.
While Kecman’s first time to the gym was at the age of 10, he’s been doing pull ups since he was six.
It all comes down to the maturity of the child whether he or she is ready for the gym: Kecman