I’ve often wondered this question. When is it okay to introduce younger children to resistance training and proper nutrition. I think that the second part of this is the easiest to answer and you should be teaching your children about nutrition as soon as possible. Children are sponges and mimic our behaviors, the good and the bad.
I keep it simple with my children. The facts are that you cannot completely deprive children of the foods that they enjoy. An example of this is I still buy cereal for my daughters, and I let them choose the flavor. I can’t expect them to eat egg white with kale and mushrooms like I do. Where I don’t flex is on dinner. I expect my girls to eat what my wife and I eat. Whether it is steak and sweet potatoes or chicken and rice, they eat what we eat. I do try to ensure that they have something sweet if they want dessert. However, when I say sweet I am talking fruit. If you don’t want to keep fresh fruit on hand, I don’t, then you can buy frozen fruit and make them after dinner smoothies. Another trick is to avoid buying chips and other processed snacks. Try to keep healthy options available for them, P3 packs are a favorite of my oldest daughter and my youngest likes having pieces of lunch meat. If you limit their options to healthy foods it will only help them in the long run.
Now for the hard part, when do we let them start resistance training. Remember, this is all opinion based and you should do your own research to develop your own educated opinion. Also, there are several personal trainers available that specialize in child fitness training. Just make sure you ask what the trainer’s certifications are and then verify them on the internet. Okay, with that out of the way where do we start? My oldest daughter will be 12 next month and I started letting her go to the gym last year. When I started training her, the main focus was teaching her proper form. You don’t want to have them lifting heavy and hurting themselves, especially at a young age. An injury now could affect them for the rest of their lives. Light weight and proper form are critical to their success as a lifter and yours as their coach. In my opinion, they can do all the lifts that you do, but as mentioned before, LIGHT WEIGHT AND PROPER FORM.
But what about the younger ones? My seven-year-old wants more than anything to lift weights. Mom and Dad do it, and she wants to as well. I feel that she is still too young to engage in weight training. The girl is very active and is constantly on the go so her cardio is great. I did, however, design a few workouts for her to do at home. She, up until she broke her arm on a trampoline, was working on her push-ups and is very proud of the fact that she does them better than the boys in her grade. Sit-ups are another exercise that younger children can do to get started. I also let her use resistance bands for things like curls, squats and other forms of presses. I also spot her when she wants to do chin ups. Another form of resistance you can use is canned goods. Pretty much everyone has 12 oz. cans of something in their pantry and you can let your younger children use them for shoulder presses, curls, and bench presses.
Just remember to do your research. This is should be fun for both of you. If you have any questions be sure to ask your child’s doctor to make sure your child is okay to exercise. The habits you teach today, your children will carry with them for life. Start them off on the right foot and they will thank you later for it.
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