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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Weight Training and Lifting

Somehow, something got lost in translation when muscles changed from being used for gathering food to being a way of life and look.

It is so standard to look a certain way that strength is not always an issue; simply how you appear seems most important. Young kids are exposed to the “beautiful people” so much that it is normal now for junior high and high school boys to pump weights and shave their body to get that magazine-model look. Until a decade ago, those rituals were reserved for those involved in bodybuilding and swimming (the price to pay for wearing a Speedo). But now, appearance is so paramount that kids want muscles—just because!

It is astonishing to know what is going on in our schools. The use of anabolic steroids is increasing to levels we don’t even know among junior high and high school students. Some are athletes succumbing to the pressure of doing anything to win. Some are not athletes at all, but use such dangerous drugs just to look good.

Go figure. Who could imagine that young teens addicted to steroids would become the cover article of Newsweek? This is a terrible situation that is growing out of hand. The news frequently shows prominent sports figures and teams getting in trouble with steroid scandals. Youngsters rarely know the side effects and as usual, even if they do, they think the bad things will never happen to them.

Desiring muscles for more strength and power, athletic superiority, or even a ripped body is not necessarily abnormal. However, if the desired end result is one built from pressure to perform, a distortion of what a healthy body really is, or a disregard for personal safety, that is a problem. Some youth think muscles are the answer to everything, and they will go to dangerous lengths to develop them.

Other youth just see muscles all around them and think they should have them to avoid being different. Muscles are important, but they are not the end all and be all for participating in activities or sports. There is so much more that contributes to the complete package of improving sports skills and expertise. We have been discussing all of the different factors that develop over time to benefit ability. Strength is just one of them.

Let’s put the steroid craze and muscle mania aside and talk about strength training as it applies and contributes to your child’s various sporting endeavors and how development plays a part. So what about lifting weights? It may be easy to think that the sooner your child starts lifting weights, the quicker he will be able to run faster, jump higher, and throw farther.

Well, think again. Maybe that is why none of the infant stores carry any beginner baby weight sets in pink and blue. When considering the question of when Johnny can start lifting weights, there are several issues that must be addressed.

Among the more important issues are

  • Age
  • Level of development
  • Reason for interest
  • Level of sports skill already achieved
  • Risk of injury
  • Availability of equipment and adequate supervision
  • Reality of gaining strength (and size)
  • How strength training works in a young body

Overcoming Obstacles to Physical Activity

There are many benefits of regular physical activity; however, people often have many excuses for not being more physically active. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraging families to consider all the benefits of being physically active and how to overcome some obstacles. Each family member can take a step toward becoming more physically active by filling out the physical activity plan.

Benefits of being physically active

Being physically active is one way you can

  • Have fun—this is important!
  • Spend time with friends.
  • Improve your body image.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increase energy levels.
  • Improve your self-image.
  • Feel stronger.
  • Increase your endurance for sport or hobbies.
  • Get muscles or definition.
  • Decrease stress.

Overcoming common obstacles

The following are suggestions on how to overcome 4 common barriers to physical activity.

1. “I don’t have time.”

What you can try

  • Build activity into your day: walk or ride your bike for transportation.
  • Get off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Plan fun, “active” activities with friends and family.
  • Sign up for physical education at your school.
  • Walk around the mall twice before you start shopping.

2. “I don’t like sports” or “I’m not good at any sports.”

What you can try

  • Consider active hobbies, like gardening. You don’t have to play a sport to be active.
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. Dancing, bicycling, and swimming are fun choices. And walking counts too.
  • Consider volunteer work, like helping at a youth center or serving meals at a shelter.
  • Find a friend, sibling, or other family member to be an “activity buddy” and schedule a fun activity 2 to 3 times a week.

3. “My neighborhood isn’t safe.”

What you can try

  • Use a workout video or DVD in your home.
  • Dance in your home to your favorite music.
  • Find a YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or community recreation center in your neighborhood.
  • Sign up for school activities such as physical education or after-school programs.

4. “I’m overweight or out of shape.”

What you can try

  • Start slow with 10 to 15 minutes of activity; walking is a great start.
  • Build short activity breaks into your day; take the stairs!
  • Count up your daily sit-down activities (computer, video games, TV time) and decrease them by 30 minutes.
  • Join an after-school program or community program that involves activity or learning a new skill—get a friend to go with you.

Physical Activity Plan

Each member can use the following questions to help create a personal physical activity plan. Parents can help their children answer the questions. Parents also should remember that they can be powerful role models and can shape their children’s perception of physical activity and exercise.

  1. What are the main benefits I want from being physically active?
  2. What are the reasons or barriers that keep me from being active?
  3. If necessary, what will be my solutions to these barriers?
  4. What activity or activities am I going to do?
  5. Where am I going to do this activity?
  6. When am I going to be active (include time of day and on which days of the week)?
  7. How long or how many minutes will I be active each day?
  8. Who will be my activity buddy?

The FITT Plan for Physical Activity

Physical activity is important for everyone in the family. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics summarizing the FITT method and includes general fitness tips and an activity log.

FITT method

FITT (frequency, intensity, time, and type) is one way to remember the general guidelines for what should be included in a fitness plan. Remember, it’s important to keep in mind that each family member’s fitness goals will be different based on age, sex, current fitness level, and available resources. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions.

Frequency—Do some type of physical activity every day.

Intensity—Choose an activity that is at least moderate in intensity, and also try to add a few more vigorous activities over the week. Vigorous activity is activity that makes you breathe hard and sweat. (Reaching a certain heart rate is not necessary.)

Time (duration)—Plan on a total time of at least 60 minutes of activity each day. This can be done all at once or added together over several shorter 10- to 15-minute blocks of activity. Breaking it up into smaller blocks of time is a great way to start a new program or fit activity into a busy schedule.

Type—The type of activity can include a variety of team sports, individual sports, recreational activities, family activities, active hobbies, and walking or bicycling for fun and transportation. Several times every week do weight-bearing activities that promote muscle strength, flexibility, and bone health. The most important thing is to choose something fun!

Tips for parents

  • Make time to be active. School-aged youth should participate every day in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is right for their age, enjoyable, and involves a variety of activities.
  • Limit sedentary activities. These are activities where you’re sitting down a lot, like watching TV, using the computer, or playing video games. Spend no more than 2 hours per day in front of a screen.
  • Keep an activity log. The use of activity logs can help children and teens keep track of their exercise programs and physical activity.
  • Focus on the positive. Praising participation over winning and encouraging positive behaviors are important, especially if a child is less active and interested in sports.
  • Be a role model. Parents are powerful role models and can help shape a child’s perception of exercise.

Activity Log

Children and teens can be motivated to exercise more when they keep an activity log. Logs can also be used by parents and health care professionals to make recommendations for changes or to offer incentives to encourage their children to be physically active.

Physical Activity and Your Child’s Safety

Do you live in a neighborhood where you aren’t comfortable having your child play outdoors unsupervised? These days, millions of parents feel this way. They’re convinced that it simply isn’t safe for their youngsters to be active outdoors, particularly on their own. And if parents are working during the day, it’s not surprising that they don’t want their youngsters spending time outside when they’re not home.

One of the best options for you to explore is whether there’s a formal after-school program in your neighborhood in which your child can participate that involves physical activity. For example, call the YMCA in your community, or the Boys & Girls Club. Enroll your child in a dance class to learn jazz or tap. Support your child in joining a youth bowling league. Be on the lookout for activities that are available in your community that include boys and girls.

Remember that participation is the key. Your child will be supervised while staying active, and you can pick him up on the way home from work. Keeping him busy after school is the key to making sure he stays away from the television set.

If your youngster is old enough to stay home by himself in the afternoons until you return from work, help him plan that time in advance. He doesn’t have to watch TV, play video games, or eat. In fact, there are many ways in which your child can stay active indoors.

Sit down with him and let him choose some after-school activities such as

  • Dancing to his favorite music on the CD player or tape deck
  • Jumping rope
  • Spending a few minutes with an exercise bike or treadmill (if you have either)
  • Doing some chores that you assign him—from cleaning up his room to emptying the dishwasher
  • Turning on a children’s exercise video and working out for 30 minutes

Many children are more likely to put an exercise video into the VCR or DVD player if siblings or parents can work out with them. They may simply find it more fun to participate in physical activity with someone else. So if your child has brothers or sisters, get them involved as much as possible.

What Does Your Child’s School Offer?

When you were in school, was physical education (PE)—or recess—your favorite “class”?

In many US schools, things have changed. Primarily because of budget cuts, PE programs have been sacrificed. Most states no longer mandate that their public schools offer PE. In some schools, PE classes are limited to once or twice a week, or they’ve been eliminated completely. Children are paying the price.

Physical activity is crucial to your child’s health and the management of his weight. If your youngster’s school district has reduced or eliminated PE programs, you need to let the district know that you want these classes back. Tell your child’s school principal. Write a letter to the members of the local school board. If you and other parents raise your voices, it might make a difference.