Can teenagers perform weight training?
Exercise • • 1 minute to read • By Najid Sheikh, INFS Faculty
Author: Najid Sheikh
Weight training is thought to be detrimental to children’s bone health and hence they are discouraged to start training at an early age as it may result in a lesser stature(height) of an individual. The three popular rationales behind suggesting not to train with weight before or during puberty are
- Damage to the epiphyseal plate(growth plate) due to mechanical stress from weight training can affect the bone growth rate
- Reduced growth hormone due to intense physical activity
- High injury risk, which can cause damage to the bone, and hence it can stunt bone growth
Let’s look at each point and break it down if they are really true.
Weight training and damage to the growth plate
Reviews( Mirtz et al,2011 ; Malina et al ,2006 ) established no negative effect of physical activities on the epiphyseal plate and the overall bone growth, but epiphyseal plates may get damaged in case of an occurrence of an accident causing injury. In the absence of any injury causing damage to the bone, weight training can have a positive impact on bone growth during adolescence ( 3 , 4 ) ( Lloyd et al ,2014 ; Vicente et al ,2006 ). Moreover, positive interventions done during adolescence to promote optimal bone maturity can help to avoid the chances of osteoporosis in later adult life( Schettler et al ,2004 ) so physical activities including weight training during adolescence can have a positive effect on bone health during the later period of adulthood.
Intense physical activity and reduced growth hormone
In a couple of studies( Gorostiaga et al,1999 ; Eliakim et al ,1996 ), hormones like IGF-1, growth hormone, and testosterone have been shown to reduce upon performing intense strength training during adolescence but a meta-analysis( Borba et al ;2020 ) found no detrimental effects of intense physical activity on IGF-1 serum levels. The detrimental effects in some studies may have been due to being on caloric deficit from increased activity.
In a nutshell, good nutrition and light to moderate training can be done by teenagers without facing negative effects.
Weight training and injury risk
It is true that injury to the growth plate during growing age can affect the potential height of an individual but a review( Faigenbaum et al , 2010 ) established that the risk is very low. It is lower than the recreational activities that adolescents may participate in school events. With that being established, a very low risk is still a risk hence care must be taken at the growing stage. It is advisable for adolescents to only train under expert supervision with light to moderate weight.
The popular arguments proposed in favor of the detrimental effects of weight training for children don’t hold true as per the research findings. Training can be safely performed with light to moderate intensity under the supervision of an expert coach with all the necessary precautionary measures.
- de Alcantara Borba, D., da Silva Alves, E., Rosa, J. P. P., Facundo, L. A., Costa, C. M. A., Silva, A. C.,... & de Mello, M. T. (2020). Can IGF-1 serum levels really be changed by acute physical exercise? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 17 (5), 575-584.
- Eliakim, A., Brasel, J. A., Mohan, S., Barstow, T. J., Berman, N., & Cooper, D. M. (1996). Physical fitness, endurance training, and the growth hormone-insulin-like growth factor I system in adolescent females. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 81 (11), 3986-3992.
- Faigenbaum, A. D., & Myer, G. D. (2010). Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects. British journal of sports medicine, 44 (1), 56–63. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2009.068098
- Gorostiaga, E. M., Izquierdo, M., Iturralde, P., Ruesta, M., & Ibáñez, J. (1999). Effects of heavy resistance training on maximal and explosive force production, endurance and serum hormones in adolescent handball players. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 80 (5), 485-493.
- Lloyd RS, Faigenbaum AD, Stone MH , et al, Position statement on youth resistance training: the 2014 International Consensus. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2014; 48: 498-505.
- Malina, Robert M PhD Weight Training in Youth-Growth, Maturation, and Safety: An Evidence-Based Review, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: November 2006 - Volume 16 - Issue 6 - p 478-487 doi: 10.1097/01.jsm.0000248843.31874.be
- Mirtz, T. A., Chandler, J. P., & Eyers, C. M. (2011). The effects of physical activity on the epiphyseal growth plates: a review of the literature on normal physiology and clinical implications. Journal of clinical medicine research, 3 (1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.4021/jocmr477w
- Schettler, A. E., & Gustafson, E. M. (2004). Osteoporosis prevention starts in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 16 (7), 274-282.
- Vicente-Rodríguez G. (2006). How does exercise affect bone development during growth?. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 36 (7), 561–569. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200636070-00002
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