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Pediatric Exercise Programs- How Do They Differ From Adults?

by Shannon McSorley

It is widely known that children and adolescents should participate in daily physical activity. Just like adults, children and adolescents have recommendations regarding exercise. In the past, children and adolescents have been directed away from resistance training, which makes a large gap between a youth exercise program and an adult exercise program. Before recent studies, resistance training in children and adolescents have been much debated due to the common misconceptions, such as resistance training will stunt the growth of children, it is unsafe, or it is only for young athletes. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has recently found that “there is no minimum age for participating in a youth resistance training program, qualified professionals should provide instruction and all participants should have the emotional maturity to accept and follow directions.” The NSCA also states that if a child is able to participate in a specific sport activity, resistance training may also be appropriate.
What are the current recommendations for children and adults?

The current recommendations state “that school-aged youth should participate daily in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is developmentally appropriate, enjoyable, and involves a variety of activities.” However, this does not include resistance training. According to the NSCA, it is recommended that youth resistance programs should be performed 2-3 days a week on nonconsecutive days. It should focus on major muscle groups and include 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions.
The current recommendations for adults, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), state that “all healthy adults aged 18-65 need moderate-intensity activity for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 days per week, or vigorous activity for a minimum of 20 minutes 3 days per week.” For resistance training they state that “every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance a minimum of 2 days a week.” With adults, there are different set/repetition recommendations based on the type of training. Whether the goal is muscle endurance, power, strength, or hypertrophy, there are different recommendations for each. It is in the recommendations of the set/repletion where resistance training between adults and youth differs the most. Regardless your age, resistance training has been shown to positively improve aerobic fitness, body composition, blood lipids, bone mineral density, body awareness, and motor performance skills.
Now that recent studies have proven that it is safe for our youth to participate in resistance training program as well as regular aerobic activity, the bridge between children and adult exercise programs has seem to get significantly smaller. We can safely say that people of all ages should perform regular physical activity that includes both aerobic and strength training if health and ability allow.


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