Kids and working out: How young is too young?

So, yesterday I mentioned that I saw a 16- or 17-year-old girl squatting a buttload of weight at the gym. And then my friend mentioned that she overheard some of her former (13-year-old) students talking about how they go to the gym. And it got me wondering, what should the age limit be for the gym?

I got a membership when I was 15. I went sporadically but mostly just messed around on the elliptical machine and treadmills.

Occasionally I’ll see a 10- or 12-year-old kid walking on the treadmill while their mom or dad works out. I also see girls who look to be 16 or 17 years old walking around and giggling while trying to figure out a weight machine.

I also see high school guys who play sports in there lifting weights. I know they’re in high school because it’s painfully obvious, and  because I do a lot of eavesdropping. Here’s a conversation I overheard once:

Guy in his late 20s: Do you know who Dwight Howard is?
17-year-old kid: Who?
Guy in his late 20s: You don’t know who Dwight Howard is?! From the Orlando Magic?
17-year-old kid: Naw
Guy in his late 20s: Are you one of those guys that when someone asks them if they like sports they say, “Nah, I’m more into literature.”
17-year-old kid: I’m more into pussy.

PFFTTTTTT. I wanted to laugh so hard when I heard that.

But anyway, I don’t really care if kids/teenagers are in the gym. Just as long as they’re mature enough to handle themselves.

I’m not exactly sure what the age rules are at the gym I go to (LA Fitness), but I think minors have to be accompanied by an adult.

I do kind of feel like younger kids and teenagers should be getting most of their exercise from being outdoors and playing sports, but if they actually like going to the gym I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to.

This also got me wondering how young is too young to start working out. Kids can be put into sports and activities as young as 3, but what if for some reason they express an interest in strength training? (Not necessarily weight training, mind you.)

This website recommends body weight or light weights and controlled movements. Kids/teens should be taught proper form, and the primary goal should be strength and endurance, NOT bulking up. An informed adult should give them a program, show them how to do it, and supervise them to prevent injuries.

One concern about kids doing strength training is it stunting their growth. However, “Science does not support the myth that strength training has a negative effect on the growth of children, but rather it has positive effects on the their bone health and growth.”

This site also says it’s okay, so long as you “get a check up first, don’t overdo it, and don’t start before age 7.

The take-home point is that it’s generally safe for kids and adolescents to perform strength training so long as they are emotionally mature enough to do it correctly, use a lighter load, and have an adult to inform and supervise them.

Buuut I don’t think most kids care or want to work out, haha. If they do, you can just point them here.

How young do you think is too young to start working out? How do you feel about teens and kids in the gym?

 

PS. If you’re looking for a workout plan, my Minimalist Muscle guide includes FREE 20 minute workouts that require minimal equipment. That means they can be done in the comfort of your own home. It’s great for beginners (including kids!) and also has challenging modifications (think paused reps and negatives) for intermediate folks. They’re simple (but effective) workouts for a complicated world.

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