why hula hooping is a great exercise for kids

Why Hula Hooping is a Great Exercise for Kids




Part of my job as a pediatric physical therapist is to try to make exercises and the rehabilitation process fun for kids. Most of the physical performance measurements we use during therapy including jumping, running, and stair climbing as tools of assessment. But, I get just as excited when one of my clients learns to hula hoop for the first time, and here is why: hula hooping is a great exercise for kids!

The benefits of hula hooping for kids:

  1. Coordination – At as young as 5 years of age, children are able to break down major tasks that require coordination of every part of their body doing different motions, such as bicycling, jump roping, and hula hooping. What makes hula hooping challenging is that in order to be successful at the task, kids have to separate their trunk movements from their limbs, maintain a stable balance, and incorporate flexibility in their motions at the same time.
  2. Core strength – Performing the hula hip motion while keeping the hoop up at the trunk requires abdominal, oblique, and upper back muscle recruitment. These are big core muscles that we all need to stand and sit upright. Keeping the trunk muscles strong will help with posture, endurance, and total body coordination.
  3. Endurance – Physical fitness is so important in children and adolescence. Health-related fitness is undeniably multidimensional. Endurance itself has many components: cardiovascular, muscular, and mental. While a typically developing school-aged child should be able to remain active and play for at least 30 minutes without need for rest, so few kids these days get a chance to build on their active time outside of school. So many kids I meet can barely play for 5 minutes without being short of breath, needing to sit down, or getting frustrated by a tough physical task.
  4. Flexibility – In order to successfully keep a hula hoop up off the ground, flexibility is just as important as strength. Many kids who don’t get enough regular exercise are often stiff and uncoordinated. There’s a reason why flexibility is often on fitness tests given in schools. Parents and teachers sometimes forget flexibility is an important aspect of physical fitness. In order to ensure proper musculoskeletal development, flexibility is key. Hula hooping teaches children how to purposefully wiggle their hips, separate their two sides, gain range of motion in all their big joints, and have fun at the same time.
  5. Attention – As anyone who tries to pick up a new task knows, learning a new activity takes practice and focus. Young children who are learning something as different and challenging as the hula hoop are honing not just their physical skills but their mental fortitude as well. A task that requires coordinated movements of every part of the body requires lots of repetition to master. Having the attention and motivation to master a new physical activity will help with improved attention for school-related tasks.
  6. Confidence – Hula hooping offers many ways to expand a child’s skills set, such as moving the hula hoop up the body, performing while standing on one foot, etc. Mastery of each new skill offers children the chance to feel pride in themselves. I’ve seen children’s programs and dance competitions dedicated to hula hooping, and not a single child could stay bored or frustrated with this amusing task. There are organizations out there dedicated to introducing hula hooping to children. Nothing boosts a young child’s confidence like being able to show off new found hula hoop skills in front of her parents and friends. I have even used hula hoops as an introduction to jump rope skills.

One recent study found that today’s children are less physically fit than their parents and their endurance is on the decline. There’s a way to combat this slow onset of sedentary lifestyle for kids who aren’t so into team sports or outdoor activities. Tons of toys are out there to make physical activities seem fun, unique, and not in the least bit boring for young minds. Hula hoops are just one of many that physical therapists love to use, in order to bring out the best in little growing bodies.

Click here to view our Gross Motor Milestones Infographic!

backpack safety

Backpack Safety




With backpack awareness day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to refresh your memory about the dos and don’ts of proper backpack wear! The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated more than 21,000 backpack-related injuries in 2003. A backpack that is too heavy or not worn properly can cause poor posture, decreased lung capacity and musculoskeletal injuries.

It is important to stay informed, recognize the signs of improper backpack use and help you child manage the load.  Here’s how:

Avoid improper carrying techniques:

  • Carrying a backpack that weighs more than 10% of your child’s body weight: If the backpack is too heavy it will cause your child to bend forward, which can eventually lead to poor posture and respiratory issues.
  • Carrying the backpack on one shoulder: Unsymmetrical carrying causes a weight shift to one side which can lead to back pain, asymmetrical spinal aligment and muscle spasms.
  • Keeping straps loose, causing the backpack to sway when your child walks: This can cause your child’s center of gravity to shift from side which may lead to loss of balance.
  • Wearing the backpack to low: This can cause forward head posture which may eventually lead to cervical muscle tightness and/or weakness. Wearing a backpack too low can also cause your child’s center of gravity to shift posteriorly which can lead to loss of balance.

Signs that you child’s backpack is too heavy:

  • Redness under the shoulder straps or neck region.
  • A change in your child’s posture while wearing the backpack.
  • Tingling, numbness or pain in the shoulder, neck and back regions.
  • Your child struggles to put the backpack on or take it off.

Tips to help your child avoid injury:

  • Check the content of your child’s backpack regularly and discuss the importance of only bringing home the necessary items.
  • Never carry a backpack that weight more than 10% of your body weight. For example, if your child weighs 50lbs, the backpack cannot weigh more than 5lbs.
  • Make sure your child wears both shoulder straps at all times. Wide and padded shoulder straps are helpful as well.
  • Buy a backpack with a padded back. That will help lessen the pressure the backpack puts on your child’s back.
  • Make sure your child wears the backpack high over the upper back and close to the body.
  • If the backpack has a waistband, make sure your child uses it! A waistband helps transfer weight from the back and shoulder region to your child’s lower trunk.

Now that your child is wearing her backpack properly, read here for tips on how to help her keep it organized!

torticollis and car seats

Torticollis, Plagiocephaly and Car Seats



Many times, babies with torticollis will develop plagiocephaly, or misshapen head. Babies develop these flat spots on one or more parts of their heads because they often sleep in the same position for prolonged period of time. Quite a few parents I know like to keep their children in car seats because they sleep better in that cradled position. If you are worried about your baby’s head shape, or if he starts to show a preference for the way he holds his head in the car seat, read on for three tips to help decrease the likelihood of plagiocephaly and improve his torticollis.

3 Tips for Reducing Plagiocephaly and Improving Torticollis in the Car Seat:

  1. Get him out of the car seat as much as possible. It may sound obvious, but car seats are really only to be used in cars. I know it’s easier to carry a sleeping infant in and out of places while they are in a car seat, but the best position for a baby is still on his tummy. Babies with torticollis are going to hate tummy time at first, but they eventually learn to like it (click here for some easy alternatives for tummy time). Even just doing tummy time over a boppy or a towel roll will help get them off their flat spot, strengthen their neck muscles, and help round out their head. Just remember, all tummy time should be supervised, whether the child is asleep or not.
  2. Place objects on the opposite side. If your baby likes to look out the window he’s next to when he’s in the car seat, switch things up and put him near the other window instead. If he likes to look to the right side all the time in the car seat, put dangling toys to the left side. Young infants are attracted to bright lights, yellow or red colors, faces, and rattle sounds. Use toys and mirrors to get him looking the other way.
  3. Try props. Props such as towel rolls and little foam cushions should only be used if they can be separated from the baby by a barrier that prevent babies from wiggling into the towels. Some infant car seats have a little shield between the baby and the soft padding of the carrier. I always recommend propping the towel rolls behind the shield and underneath the side of the head they prefer to lie on. This gets them to turn their head more to the other side. It does the same job as the Tortle hat, and babies tolerate it much better than wearing a beanie.

If you are still having trouble keeping your little one off his flat spot while he is in the car seat, or if you are noticing a head shape change, bring him (and the car seat) in to one of our physical therapy specialists, and we will help turn things around.

Click here to read more about plagiocephaly helmets from a therapist’s perspective!

7-minute workout for kids

The Benefits of the 7-Minute Workout for Kids




In May 2013, the New York Times reported on a research-based high-intensity workout for adults that lasts only 7-minutes! It boasts 12 exercises that only last 30 seconds each, with little to no equipment involved. It sounds too good to be true, but there is quite a bit of exercise science to back up the findings. High-intensity interval training, which is the basis of this workout, is a form of endurance training.

Needless to say, I’ve tried out the 7-minute workout myself. It is a pretty tough 7 minutes. These exercises are meant to be hard. But they are also over after 7 minutes.  As a pediatric physical therapist, I wondered if the 7-minute workout could be modified for kids.

So is the 7-minute workout something you can do with your kids?

Of course! Intensive endurance training has been proven effective in kids as young as 8 years old. That said, I have also taken bits and pieces of the workout and used them as part of exercise program for kids as young as 5 years old. There are components of the 12 exercises that work on more than just muscle and cardiovascular endurance.

Here is a  break down of each exercise in the 7-minute workout and why they are part of a pediatric physical therapist’s repertoire:

1) Jumping Jacks: Kids as young as 5 years old should be able to perform jumping jacks with proper technique. This is an exercise that works on total body coordination, motor planning, and endurance.

2) Wall sit: This is a great way to strengthen the hip and trunk. A lot of children I see have gait deviations related to weakness in their thigh and hip muscles. They also have weakness in their large muscles that are needed for postural control. Modified (less intense) versions of a wall sit can help work on muscles they need for bigger movements such as running, walking, and jumping.

3) Push-ups: A typically developing 6 year old should be able to do 8 push-ups in 30 seconds. Working on push-ups with proper form teach correct use of abdominal muscles and postural muscles in the upper trunk.

4) Abdominal crunch: Doing sit-ups is an obvious measurement of abdominal/trunk strength in children. It is part of many school-aged fitness tests (read about the FitnessGram here). A typically developing 5 year old is able to do at least 1-3 sit-ups without having to use compensations such as pulling up with the arms. Abdominal muscles are important not only for posture, but for the development of balance and ball skills.

5) Step-up onto chair: This is a big muscle group exercise. Steps of different heights can be used depending on age and ability. Often times, the number of repetitions a child can do is not the most important thing. What matters more is the quality of movements. Being able to step-up and down using either leg equally, being able to step-up without using hands, and being able to keep hips/knees in neutral alignment are all the things we look for in a typically developing child. This exercise will help build strength, symmetry, and lower body alignment so your little one can do age-appropriate skills such as stair climbing and jumping.

6) Squat: Whether a child does squats with hands supported or free-standing, squats work on large muscles such as the glutes and the core. In children who walk on their toes, I also have them work on playing and jumping in the squat position. It stretches out their calves and encourages them to shift weight back through their heels.

7) Triceps dip on chair: Triceps dips are hard to master. It is a modified version of the bridge position, or crab position, as I tell most of my 3-year-olds. It is another great way to encourage heel contact, abdominal muscle strength, and upper body strength. Being able to just hold the position for a 5 year old strengthens more than just the belly muscles. It strengthens the muscles that wrap around the trunk, promoting posture.

8) Plank: Ask anyone who has ever held a plank and they will tell you this is a full body workout! From strengthening the shoulder girdle, to engaging all core muscles, to working on balance, this exercise gives you the most bang for your buck. The importance of many of these things has been touched on previously, but it should be noted that proper shoulder girdle strength is imperative for many things, including ball skills, legible hand writing, and other fine motor tasks.

9) High knees running in place: Running in place with high knees encourages forefoot push-off, and strengthening of calves and quadriceps. Strong muscles in these areas allow for increased push-off during running and jumping activities, allowing a child to run faster and jump farther.

10) Lunge: Lunges are another great exercise utilized by physical therapists to address many different areas. Lunges can help improve ankle range of motion, quadriceps strength, and dynamic balance. Just like with squats, this exercise can be performed both with hands supported and free-standing, depending on the child’s strength and balance needs.

11) Push-up and rotation: This exercise is a way to increase the difficulty of a regular push-up, while also addressing the core muscles important for dynamic postural control. A child should only move on to these exercises once he/she has mastered regular push-ups with good form; regular push-ups can be substituted at station 11 if needed.

12) Side plank: This exercise is a way to increase the difficulty of a regular plank, while focusing primarily on rotator cuff strength and stability. A strong rotator cuff is necessary to prevent injury with repetitive overhead tasks, such as throwing and swimming. Many children who play competitive baseball, softball, and swimming, should be on a rotator cuff strengthening program to limit the frequency of overuse injuries.

Incorporating this short work-out into your family’s daily routine is a great way for the whole family to stay active and show your children the how important it is to exercise regularly. Always remember to get cleared by your physician prior to the start of a new exercise routine. If your school-aged child reports pain or if you notice significant difficulty with any of these exercises, please contact our physical therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy to set up an evaluation.

Co-written by Andrea Ragsdale PT


Stout, JL. Physical Fitness during Childhood and Adolescence. In Campbell, SK. Physical Therapy for Children ed 3. St. Louis, Missouri : Elsevier, 2006. pp 257-287

the anatomy of a good baby carrier

The Anatomy of a Great Baby Carrier




One question I get from my clients or friends who are having babies for the first time is this: what do physical therapists think about baby carriers such as the BabyBjorn, slings, or wraps? They also wonder if baby carriers really lead to hip problems.

There are now more carrier choices than ever before, which makes the decision of which carrier to choose that much harder.

Here are the things physical therapists look out for when it comes to choosing baby carriers:

1)    Baby Position – Does the carrier let your baby keep her joints in a natural position? For example, young babies have a naturally flexed position, meaning their back is round, their hips and knees bent, and their heads need to be supported. When she is a little older and can hold her head up on her own, she can face outward and interact with the world a little more. A carrier that lets her do that is optimal. Just like with any other baby equipment (crib, boppy, car seat, bouncer, etc), pay close attention to any asymmetries when your baby is in any sort of carrier. Babies aren’t meant to be in the same position for a long period of time. If the carrier only allows them to face to the right or left, then be sure to switch them in and out of that position frequently.

2)    Parent Posture – The same thought of proper positioning goes for parents as well. The point of baby carriers is to make life easier for you, not create unnecessary back strain, shoulder soreness, or neck cramps. Carriers with asymmetrical, off to the side, designs should be used with care, and the sides should be alternated frequently. Carriers that do not offer enough adult back support to accommodate for growing babies will do more harm than good in the long run.

3)    Carrier Material – Along the same lines, baby carriers should focus on one thing: comfort, for parent and baby. Soft padding is essential to protect the parent’s shoulders and back. Ultra-soft material should be in contact with baby’s skin. Avoid hard fabrics, buckles, or insertions that place pressure on your trunk or rubs on the baby’s limbs.

For everything else, it really is based on your needs and what you want to get out of your baby carrier; whether it’s for hiking outdoors or just getting things done around the house. While there is no medical research indicating one type of carrier contributing to hip dysplasia in babies more than others, certain positions are better for hip alignment.

See below for some helpful websites to discover the perfect baby carrier for you and your baby:


What is the FitnessGram and Why Are These Standards Used in Schools?




For more than 30 years, children from 5 to 18 years old have been tested using the FitnessGram Healthy Fitness Zone standards. Parents often wonder: What are these standards and how do the calculations reflect children’s health and fitness?

The most I remember from taking part in the FitnessGram back in the day was trying to reach for my toes and then getting pinched in the back of my arm. But the FitnessGram is more than just a measure of body fat and flexibility. The test items are used to determine body composition and aerobic capacity in children. They present a multi-dimensional view of children’s health. The test items reinforce health-related fitness research. The results serve to teach students and parents that just modest amounts of physical activity can improve their performance. The program helps children and parents better understand and appreciate a physically active lifestyle. The assessment does not compare one child to another and it tests fitness, not skill.

So what are the test items in the FitnessGram and what area of fitness do they measure?

To measure Aerobic Capacity (The ability to perform big muscle group high intensity exercises for a long period of time, such as running, jumping, and walking):

  • PACER test, Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run, is a multi-stage endurance test, with twenty-one levels that increase in difficulty as children run 20 meter laps that gets faster and faster with each lap.
  • 1-Mile Run tests a child’s endurance and is a great indicator of fitness
  • Walk-test also helps to measure aerobic capacity, or the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently.

To measure Muscle Strength (the ability of muscles to exert an external force) and Muscle Endurance (muscles’ ability to repeatedly exert an external force without fatigue):

  • Pull-ups are a measure of upper body strength and endurance
  • Push-ups are a measure of upper body and trunk strength and endurance
  • Curl-ups are a measure of abdominal strength and endurance
  • Trunk lift is a measure of back muscle strength and endurance

To measure Flexibility (the range of motion across a joint and the ability for muscles to stretch):

  • Sit and reach tests for flexibility of the trunk.
  • Shoulder stretch tests for the flexibility of one the shoulder, which is one of the most flexible joints in the body.

To measure for Body Composition (the makeup of the body and the ratio of fat tissue to non-fat tissue such as muscle and bone):

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Skinfold Measurement
  • Bioelectric Impedance Analyzers

The results of the test classify children’s performance as Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) or Needs Improvement (NI) zone. Children who score in the Needs Improvement zone receive reports that let them and their parents know that their currently at risk for future health problems. Some children may even score in the Health Risk category of the Needs Improvement zone. If they continue to live a sedentary lifestyle, there will be clear and potential health problems. Overall, The FitnessGram has been widely accepted in schools as a great educational tool for parents, teachers, and coaches. It builds a strong healthy foundation in children as young as elementary school. The program teaches them, through a hands-on approach, that being physical active in childhood pays off later on in life.

Click here for more great fitness related posts!

Plowman, S.A. Muscular Strength, Endurance, and Flexibility Assessments. In S. A. Plowman & M.D. Meredith (Eds.), Fitnessgram/Activitygram Reference Guide (pp. Internet Resource). (2014) Dallas, TX: The Cooper Institute.
Plowman, S.A. & Meredith, M.D. (Eds.). Fitnessgram/Activitygram Reference Guide. (2014) Dallas, TX: The Cooper Institute.

ball skills

Help Your Child Develop Ball Skills




Pediatric physical therapists and occupational therapists often work with young children on play skills to prepare them for school and sports. Between when a baby first learns to sit on his own and when he starts preschool, many gross motor skills are developing. The ability to catch, throw, and kick a ball often reflect how well a child can balance his body in space, interact with his environment, and coordinate opposing sides of his body. As a prelude to specialized sports, ball skills are especially important for children to master. The questions parents frequently ask me are often related to the development of those ball skills.


When should my child be able to catch a ball?

Catching a ball takes on different qualities when it comes to development. A one-year- old child should be able to catch a ball while sitting down by enclosing the ball with arms and hands, without falling or losing his balance.

  • By age 2, a child is able to stand and hold his arms in front of his body, with palms up in a receiving position in anticipation. He should attempt to secure a ball thrown from 5ft away by bringing hands to chest.
  • By age 3, he should be able to catch a ball thrown from 5ft away with hands only, with arms outstretched, without the need to bring his hands to his chest. At four and a half, a child is able to catch a tennis ball from 5ft away using his hands only, with arms bent at 45 degrees, at least 2 out of 3 times.
  • By age 6, a child can bounce a tennis ball on the floor and catch it with 1 hand.

How should my child throw a ball at different ages?

  • At 12 months, a baby can roll a ball forward on the floor at least 3ft using his hands. He can also stand and throw a ball in any direction by extending his arm at shoulder or elbow.
  • By 18 months, a child should be able to stand and throw a ball without falling.
  • By 2 years, a child will be able to throw a tennis ball forward at least 3ft using an overhand and underhand technique. By two and a half, that distance doubles.
  • By three and a half, a child will be able to throw a tennis ball forward 10ft in the air and use appropriate technique, such as moving arms up and back using upper trunk rotation, with arms and legs moving in opposition. He can also hit a 2ft target from 5ft away with a tennis ball using underhand toss.
  • By four and a half, a child can throw a tennis ball underhandedly at least 10ft using trunk rotation and opposing arm/leg movements. He can also hit a target from 12ft away 2 out of 3 trials using an overhand toss.

When should my child be able to kick a ball?

  • At a year and a half, a child will have the balance and coordination to stand, lift his foot, and contact a ball. By 20 months, he can kick a stationary ball forward 3ft. By 2 years, he would be able to do this without the ball deviating more than 20 degrees to either side of midline, suggesting good control of his body and limbs.
  • A 3-year-old can kick a ball forward 6ft using opposing arm and leg movements. He should be able to initiate the kick by bringing his foot backwards with knee bent.
  • By 6 years, a child has the balance, coordination, and strength to kick the ball forward and up in the air at least 12ft, using proper technique.

Okay. So that’s what my child should be doing. How do I help him achieve these developmental milestones?

It is so important to start at a level that your child can achieve and then gradually increase the difficulty. Children respond well to success and praise, and they are more willing to try challenging tasks as they build up their confidence. Break down each task step by step. For example, if kicking a ball is hard or if his technique is off, have your child practice standing on one foot first or kick a balloon instead. If throwing underhandedly is tough, break down the different position of his arms and legs during each point of the motion. Achieving developmental milestones is a matter of practice, timing, cognitive maturation, and understanding the parts of each task.

Look for an upcoming blog about specialized sports for children. If you continue to have questions or concerns about your child’s coordination, development, and ball skills, come in and talk to one of our specialists!

what is an orthotist

What is an Orthotist?




Pediatric physical therapists and physicians often rely on the help of orthotists and prosthetists to help with patients’ mobility needs. Sometimes, children come to physical therapists with gait and postural deviations (toe-walking, in-toeing, scoliosis, etc) and other conditions where exercises and muscle retraining simply are not enough. In those cases, we often ask for the help of an orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) specialist. Braces and artificial limbs are important to facilitate movement and promote independence.

When we refer children to an orthotist, it means we think that some aspect of their movement and growth could be helped out by an external medical device. An orthotist is a critical part of the rehabilitation and therapy process. Orthotics help correct alignment and improve function of childrens’ neuromuscular or musculoskeletal system. Orthotists evaluate what a child’s functional needs are and will design and construct the orthotic devices as needed. An orthotist is a certified healthcare professional who is knowledgeable in human anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, and engineering. As movement specialists, physical therapist rely heavily on the help of orthotists to achieve the mobility goals for our clients.

Some conditions that may require help of an orthotist:

Not sure if your child will have orthotic needs? Come see a physical therapist and we can point you to the right medical professional depending on your needs.

Click here to read our run-down of the best over the counter foot orthotics.

night splints

The Quick Guide to Night Splints for Children




For many children who are idiopathic toe-walkers, physical therapists often take the conservative approach. We have many things in our arsenal to help children improve without undergoing costly and painful surgery. Outside of stretching and strengthening exercises, we might recommend ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) for day time and/or night time wear. Depending on the child’s range of motion measurements, walking mechanics, and underlying pathology, different types of orthotics might be recommended. We often work closely with orthotists (professionals who design medical supportive devices such as braces) to make sure each child receives the individualized care and equipment he needs to gain full function and optimal alignment.

Here are reasons why your physical therapist might have recommended night splints for your child:

  1. The main goals of physical therapy interventions for toe-walkers are to increase ankle dorsiflexion range of motion and to decrease possible contractures that are associated with the condition. Physical therapy exercise programs include stretching the calf muscles, strengthening the trunk muscles, manual therapy, treadmill training, balance training, and ankle mobility training. Sometimes, in stubborn cases of toe-walking, orthotics are needed to maintain the range of motion gained throughout daily exercise sessions.
  2.  If you’ve ever tried to stretch your pre-schooler’s muscles, you know that children can be active and fidgety. They don’t tolerate passive stretches as well as adults and might complain of boredom, pain, or ticklishness. The most effective stretches are those held for a prolonged period of time at a joint’s end range. Night splints allow for increased stretch time at the ankle joint, because the child is sleeping or resting when they are in place.
  3. The best time to gain range is when a child is relaxed. Since children relax more during sleep, even more range can be gained through passive stretching using a night time AFO.
  4. This is where the night-time splint comes in. While the daytime AFO is a rigid orthosis that keeps your child’s ankles from plantarflexing (pointing down) past neutral while he walks, the night time AFO is a much more dynamic system. Night splints can be adjusted as the ankles gain more range into dorsiflexion. They provide a low-load, prolonged-duration stretch that helps with contracture reduction and counters high tone.
  5. In the literature, night splints have been found to be effective for contractures at a variety of joints, and can be useful in brachial plexus injuries, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy.

As pediatric physical therapists, we rarely recommend over-the-counter orthotics for your child’s orthopedic needs. By consulting with an orthotist, we make sure each child is fitted to the most comfortable and developmentally appropriate custom foot wear for his condition. Usually, children who adhere to a strict physical therapy program and who receive the right orthoses can see a complete change to their posture and gait mechanics in as short as 6 months’ time.

Click here to view our gross motor milestones infographic!

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Evidence-based care guideline for management of idiopathic toe walking in children and young adults ages 2 through 21 years. Cincinnati (OH): Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; 2011 Feb 15. 17 p. [49 references]

push-ups child

Benefits of Strength Training With Kids

What exactly is strength training?

Strength training, or resistance training, is a way to increase muscular strength where levels of resistance are increased over time. It can be done with free weights, weight machines and resistance bands. Strength training can also be performed with activities like tug of war or climbing in the playground where resistance is provided by the child’s own body weight.

Is it safe?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics strength training is safe for children when specific guidelines are followed. Strength training can
be unsafe for children when unsupervised. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reports that most injuries related to strength training occur while children are at home unsupervised. Injury rates are much lower with supervision and knowledge of appropriate technique. Children should avoid body building, power lifting and maximal lifts, but that does not mean they cannot perform other strength training or weight lifting exercises.

Guidelines proposed by:

The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine and The National Strength and Conditioning Association.

1. An evaluation should be performed by a pediatrician or family physician.

2. push-ups childSupervision is always required by an instructor with an approved strength-training certification with an instructor to student ratio of 1:10.

3. It is recommended that strength training should start after the child has postural control and good balance, usually around 7 or 8 years old.

4. A 10-15 minute warm up and cool down must be done before and after every session.

5. Always begin with low resistance until technique is perfected.

6. When 8-15 reps can be performed properly, weight should be added in 10% increments.

7. Include all muscle groups, and perform the exercise through full range of motion. Workouts should last 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times/week (more than 4 X/week can increase injury risk).

8. Remember to also include an aerobic component to any exercise routine. The Journal for the America Academy for Pediatrics also reports that children will benefit more from participating in sports than from strength training alone. For maximal health benefits, strength training should done along with an aerobic training program.

Some benefits from strength training include:

– Improved sports performance

– Increased bone mineral density

– Improved cardiovascular fitness

– Improved posture

– Improved body image

– Improved motor skills


Won’t strength training stunt my child’s growth? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there is no evidence that supports stunted growth in kids who strength train in a safe and supervised environment. Strength training programs have no documented effects on growth. That does not include competitive weight lifting however, the American Academy of Pediatrics is more cautious when weight lifting is competitive and does not recommend power lifting, maximum lifts and body building for children.

Children are unable to increase muscle strength due to low testosterone levels. Children can still become stronger from strength training without the muscle hypertrophy that adults will have (bulkiness). Strength gains will still occur through an increase in motor neuron firing with each muscle contraction. In simpler terms, the brain will send more signals to use that muscle and therefore the muscle contraction will be stronger.