Is CrossFit Training Good For Kids?

NPR--Health Blog—September 24, 2012

For thousands of people across the country, going to a regular gym just doesn't cut it. Instead, they prefer CrossFit routines: like swinging kettlebells, flipping tires, and doing squats and dead lifts until they drop. Now kids as young as 4 are taking part.

The idea behind CrossFit Kids, says co-founder Jeff Martin, is to pair fitness and fun.

Jordon Metzl, M.D., is a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and author of The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies: 1,001 Doctor-Approved Health Fixes and Injury-Prevention Secrets for a Leaner, Fitter, More Athletic Body! Metzl says when people think about strength training for kids, the initial thought is, "Are you crazy? Kids should not be lifting weights." But he and many other sports medicine specialists are convinced that strength training can be great for kids.

That idea gained momentum in 2008, when the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its policy statement on weight training for children and adolescents. The AAP used to recommend against weightlifting, but after considering new research it determined it's safe for kids to start a light weightlifting routine after age 8. Metzl explains that kids who strength-train won't look like mini Schwarzeneggers — that type of bulking up doesn't happen until after puberty.

"The muscles don't look better, they just act actually a lot stronger, and it is very helpful for them," Metzl says.

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Metzl, who just launched a kids strength training education project called Home Strength Training for Young Athletes with the AAP, explains that for kids to reap the benefits of strength training, they don't need to push too hard.

"We're not looking for full muscle fatigue at all," Metzl says. "There have been a number of studies that compare high-repetition, lightweight training to lifting big weights for a short time to bulk up muscles, and surprisingly the strength benefits are almost equivalent between the two."

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