Is it a good idea to get your kids into strength training? In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about strength training and home gyms for children.
Regularly working out and taking care of your health is important for everyone. As a parent, you might be motivated to stay in shape so that you can run around with your kids or to set a good example for them, but the idea of kids working out might seem wrong to you.
Maybe you think that we should leave them to enjoy their childhood and not to worry about exercising or that introducing it too young could lead to an unhealthy relationship with their body. However, there are good reasons to expose your children to fitness early and to encourage them to get involved.
Kids and fitness: why it’s more important than ever
Childhood obesity levels in the UK are some of the highest in Europe and our adult obesity rates are even worse. Studies have shown that when children participate in physical activities, they are less likely to become obese as an adult.
Instilling the importance of exercise and a healthy diet to overall wellbeing is one of the best gifts you can give your child.
To be clear, we are not advocating for children to start bodybuilding, HIIT classes or macro-counting! We agree that stuff is for adults only. We are focusing on how you can sow the seeds of interest and an appreciation that keeping active is an important part of life.
Kids indoor fitness and how to get them involved
Engaging in a keep fit activity together and bonding over it will be a good way to spend time together, but it will also foster a ‘warm glow’ around that activity when they grow up
If children see you staying fit, they’re likely to copy!
There have been many studies that show just how much children record and mimic what they see in their parents. If they see you taking care of your diet and exercise, there’s a good chance they’ll want to do the same.
If you have primary school-aged children, set a good example through your own habits and allow them to take an interest if they wish. When you work out at home, let your child watch you and ask questions or even join in (depending on what you are doing).
Explain to your kids what you’re doing in your home gym
If you are strength training, talk them through what you are doing, how it connects to the different muscles or parts of the body, and explain that you have a target number of reps and sets. You might ham it up by doing a dramatic countdown of reps and do some over-the-top celebrations when you finish your set, especially if they are very young.
If they want to join in, you could either give them a very lightweight or explain to them that it is only for adults, depending on what you think is best.
If you are doing cardio at home and they want to do it too, just let them!
Kids find an interest in the strangest things so if they think that it is fun then there is no harm in letting them join in. Other activities to do together include jogging, walking, and cycling.
Engaging in a keep fit activity together and bonding over it will be a good way to spend time together, but it will also foster a ‘warm glow’ around that activity when they grow up – or, at the very least, a good habit.
What are some great kids weights to buy?
If your kids are like mine, they’re eager to show you how much weight they can lift and will grab a 24kg kettlebell and shout ‘Look daddy!’ as I race across the gym to grab if away from them.
But there are some weights we’ve found are safe (as long as they don’t drop them on their toes!) These rubbery, lightweight Neoprene dumbbells on Amazon are fantastic.
I’d definitely recommend using them under supervision, but my little girl loves using them.
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Giving teens a good start in strength and fitness
If you have teenagers then you should probably ban exercise from the house because that is a sure-fire way to get them hooked!
But seriously, teenage years are incredibly important because this is when activity levels can go down. The problem is most acute for girls, as sports are not pushed on them in the way that they are on boys. You’ve also got a lot of competing ‘activities’ that are more tempting for teenagers than exercising and getting in shape.
I’m looking at you, Xbox.
From around 14, most gyms will allow teenagers in the gym if they are accompanied by an adult. However, getting your teenager to come with you is a whole different thing. At this age, they want to be with their friends so your best bet is to encourage them to take up an active hobby.
Your role is being a taxi driver.
Alternatively, you could introduce them to yoga. It is quite a trendy thing to do, it is good for their health, they can do it at home or in a class, with you or alone, and it is beneficial for mental health and relaxation.
The biggest secret to getting kids of any age into fitness
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that you should not push an exercise onto your child because this will create a negative relationship with it.
Allow them to take an interest in what you are doing and, if they do not, then leave it. It is important to ensure that your child is active, of course, but sports, dance and play activities can all be suitable ways of achieving this for children.
The final point to be mindful of is how you portray your relationship with the gym and exercise. As previously mentioned, children’s minds are like sponges, they soak up everything.
If you complain about working out then they will see it as a chore; if you tell them that you are looking forward to working out, that you feel good after doing it, and that you enjoy it then – even if they are not involved in it – you are creating a positive attitude that will hopefully influence them to take care of themselves in later life.
Kids, home gyms and fitness FAQs
Can children lift weights, or is it bad for them?
Contrary to what some people think, children can lift weights. It won’t stunt their growth, damage joints or do anything negative as long as it’s done properly. Check out this excellent guide on the Mayo Clinic for more science on children and strength training.
Is it OK for kids to do bodybuilding?
No. It’s important to separate out strength training from the idea of training for bigger muscles, which just looks weird on children anyway (check youtube for some scary examples).
What age can children start weight training?
The recommended age for children to begin any kind of strength training (and that can be as simple as lifting their own bodyweight with push-ups) is 7 to 8 years old. However, kids mature physically at different rates.
What are the benefits of kids using weights?
Strength training has enormous benefits for children:
- It makes muscles stronger
- Strengthens and builds better bones
- Improves overall health
- Creates a life-long habit
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
- NCBI – Perfectly Active Teenagers. When Does Physical Exercise Help Psychological Well-Being in Adolescents?
- Michigan State Uni – Young children learn by copying you!
- NHS – Physical activity guidelines for children and young people
- Exercise for children and young people
- Cross-sectional analysis of physical activity in 2–4-year-olds