Donohue: Strength training OK for young children

Donohue: Strength training OK for young children

April 11th, 2009 in Health

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I would like to give my 10-year-old grandson some conditioning advice. He loves basketball. It has occurred to me that upper-body strength is helpful in shooting long shots and in positioning for rebounds. In high school, I had a well-developed lower body but a poorly developed upper body. This handicapped me when shooting long shots. I have added pushups to my daily exercises, and this has helped me in shooting three-pointers.

My questions are: When is a good time for a boy to start building muscle? Are there any exercises you would recommend for upper-body strength building for a 10-year-old? - J.M.

A: The sports community, until recently, frowned on strength training (weightlifting, muscle building, resistance exercise) for children who had not reached puberty. They thought that children, before the male hormone surge that takes place at puberty, would not benefit from it. It's been shown that they do, and that children as young as 7 show improvement in strength. The sports community also feared that weightlifting posed a health threat to young children whose bones are not completely calcified. Young bones have growth plates, sections of bone that have yet to become real bone. Growth plates permit bone elongation. These areas are areas of weakness. A well-supervised, well-designed weightlifting program doesn't injure growth plates. In fact, such a program protects children from common sports injuries. All this applies to girls as well as boys.

Your grandson can do the same exercises you do - with less weight. Your pushups are a good example. Body weight is the weight being hoisted. Chin-ups are another strength-building exercise in which body weight is the stimulus for muscle growth. He also can lift barbells and dumbbells. He should start with a weight that he can lift 12 consecutive times without straining. When he can perform two sets of 15 consecutive lifts, you can increase the weight by one to 3 pounds and go back to the 12 lifts. Barbell and dumbbell curls and bench presses are good upper-body strength-building exercises. A visit to the local library will pay off with books that show the details of many strength-building exercises.

c. North America Syndicate

TO READERS: The booklet on fitness outlines aerobic exercise (not strength-building exercise) in detail. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue - No. 1301, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 75 and in good health. For the past 30 years, I've been fast-pace walking for 45 minutes. For the rest of the day, I am mostly inactive. Would it be better to break up my exercise into three or four 20-minute walks? - P.K.

A: What you're doing right now puts you in a class with few others. Adding more time by dividing your exercise into three or four 20-minute sessions does give you slightly more of a workout. Why not try it? It's a different approach to an exercise program you've been doing for 30 years. It's good to vary a program from time to time. It keeps the body on its toes, so to speak. Have you gotten your doctor's approval for you program? Do so.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 72 and weigh 130 pounds. I walk 45 minutes on a treadmill at a speed of 3.8 miles per hour. The display on the treadmill shows I burn 360 calories. Do I really burn that many? Isn't calorie burning proportional to body weight? - A.A.

A: It is. Body weight has to be factored into the calorie-burning of walking. Moving a 190-pound body burns more calories than moving a 130-pound body.

The 360 calorie burning reading is an estimate. All calorie-burning is an estimate. By the tables I consult, the calorie burning of someone your weight, doing the exercise you describe, is 260 calories, and the calorie burning of someone weighing 190 pounds, doing the same exercise, is 400 calories.