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How much time do your children spend on sedentary armchair gaming and electronic pastimes?

The detrimental effects of our technology driven society along with overconsumption of processed food have created a generation of obese children. These children are already shouldering diseases previously reserved for the over-fifty generation, such as diabetes, hypertension and degenerative skeletal disorders as a direct result of junk foods and inactivity. Excess body weight also hinders performance and increases injury risk in outdoor activities. This tidal wave of obesity has rolled over our country like a tsunami but we have at our doorstep the very tools to disengage from this health disaster. Outdoor activities in conjunction with resistance exercises can reverse the course.

It is well documented that children, when properly coached, can participate in resistance exercises that train and strengthen muscles and decrease injury. Current recommendations state school-aged children should engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. In addition to a regular cardiovascular routine adding a program of resistance training offers exclusive benefits independent of aerobic activity or sport alone.

"Children can safely strength train when they are mature enough to understand the purpose" suggests Dr Lee Brown, professor of Kinesiology and past president of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Strength training in children is safe provided there is adequate instruction, time and practice to develop specific movements. Appropriate safety measures, such as spotters, need to be in place. Important considerations when starting a strength-training program include emotional maturity, ability to follow directions and an understanding of the negative consequences (injury) when form is not properly followed. Faigenbaum, et al, suggest that strength training in kids starting should be a three-part process including education, progression and function. Initial training sessions should begin with a sound education to learn the correct technique. As technique is honed, the program can be developed to progresses through a complexity of moves, load and intensity. And finally, always focus on function to maintain safe and appropriate exercises, repetitions, sets and recovery.

Strength training for adults or kids doesn't have to be done in a gym. Janet's own Strength training regimen includes a core strengthening yoga class through DragonFly Martial arts, a local gym specializing in Taekwando and Kempo. Most evening, half of the students in the yoga class are kids as young as nine years old working on strengthening their core, an important component to any martial arts program. The best part is that often times the kids are developing their core strength alongside their older siblings, parents and even grandparents. A strong core is important for anyone doing any outdoor activity.

Most injuries occur when children are performing maximal lifts, have improper form or are not adequately supervised. Consider contacting a certified strength and conditioning specialist for expert advice to develop a program for your child. Perhaps the best advice is to develop a resistance-training program together; what's good for them is just as good for you.

1. Faigenbaum, A, Kraemer, W, Blimkie, C, Jeffreys, I, Micheli, L, Nitka, M, and Rowland, T. Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 0: 1-20, 2009.

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