Obese children benefit from resistance training

A supervised, progressive resistance training program significantly increased strength and resulted in favorable body composition changes in overweight and obese children. Results add to the support of resistance training programs for youth, which can be part of a comprehensive health-enhancement strategy for all boys and girls, including those with a disinterest in physical activity.

The study was presented at the 52nd American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

With the dramatic increase in childhood obesity and inactivity in the past decade, this study was designed to determine the value of resistance training programs for a group of obese children, particularly its effect on strength and body composition.

“Parents and coaches who are concerned about the safety of resistance training for kids, and even young athletes, should know that it is a safe and effective activity for this age group, provided it is well designed and supervised,” said Chris M. Holian, lead author of the study. “For some, this type of training for kids is a question. Should they or shouldn’t they? There’s no doubt resistance training offers great benefits for kids when performed correctly. But, no competitive or maximal weightlifting and powerlifting for kids.”

A small group of young children between the ages of 7 and 11 was randomly selected to participate in a 10-week (3 times/wk) program or in a control (no training) program. Each child possessed a Body Mass Index higher than the 95 percentile for age and gender.

Strength was examined in a one-repetition series for the leg press, leg curl, chest press, overhead press, biceps curl, front pulldown, and seated rows. Changes in body composition were measured by total body scans. As expected, the resistance training group showed significant increases in strength throughout the series of weight exercises. Additionally, those in the program gained more lean muscle.

“Kids can start with some basic resistance training concepts that don’t require expensive equipment or a gym membership,” said Holian. “For example, using the body’s own resistance to do sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and other exercises is a good way to start. Kids who really want to try a program should find a trainer to help them design a well-rounded program, which should include other activities besides resistance training, like running, walking or cycling.”

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