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Physical activity and strength training in children and adolescents: An overview

Author
Pat R Vehrs, PhD, FACSM
Section Editor
Joseph Chorley, MD
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM

INTRODUCTION

Reports and recommendations from professional organizations and federal agencies have increased public awareness of the health benefits associated with regular physical activity [1-3]. A panel convened by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that school-age children participate in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is age and developmentally appropriate and enjoyable [3-5]. The 60 minutes of daily physical activity should include activities that strengthen muscles and bones on at least three days per week [4,5]. The activity may occur in the context of play, games, sports, work, transportation, recreation, physical education, or planned exercise [3,6]. Various methods of applying resistance to movement can be used to strengthen muscles, including lifting weights or using resistance bands [5].

Increased levels of physical activity and fitness are associated with reduced risk of disease in adulthood (eg, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, selected cancers, and musculoskeletal conditions). (See "The benefits and risks of exercise", section on 'Benefits of exercise'.)

However, these benefits usually are not the motivating factors for physical activity among children and adolescents. Children and adolescents participate in exercise or strength-training programs to improve physical fitness, performance, body composition, and body image, or to alleviate boredom and to socialize [7].

The benefits of physical activity and the potential benefits and risks of strength training in children and adolescents will be reviewed here. This information can be used by clinicians to counsel children and families regarding the development of an overall physical fitness program that includes strength training.

DEFINITIONS

In the discussion below, the terms child and children refer to boys and girls who have not yet developed secondary sex characteristics (Tanner stages 1 and 2, preadolescence). Adolescence refers to the period of time between childhood and adulthood (Tanner stages 3 and 4). The term youth broadly refers to both children and adolescents.

                                

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Literature review current through: Nov 2016. | This topic last updated: Mon Sep 19 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2016.
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