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Is Your Child's Exercise Program Stunting Their Growth?

With childhood obesity on the rise, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle need to be instilled in our children at an early age. Studies have shown that children that are active throughout their teenage years have a greater chance of being healthy adults.
However, if done incorrectly an exercise program can cause long-term injuries. From birth to early adulthood your child's bones are constantly growing in length and thickness. If too much pressure is placed on these bones it could lead to a crack in the epiphyses, causing the bone to stop growing in length.
Weight training is usually the first method of exercise thought of when growth plate injuries are spoken about, but rather than weight training being the culprit, it is poor supervision and program design that causes these problems. In fact, poor program design in any sport or activity could lead to these problems.
How Bones Grow
In a newborn, a bone starts out as a shaft with cartilage at each end. Slowly the cartilage at each end transforms into bone. At this point there is a thin section of cartilage at the end of the bone. This is the Epiphyseal Plate (or growth plate). The cells in this section grow in a different way than the rest of the bone and this allows it to get longer. This is also the weakest section, and it is here that injuries tend to occur when the bone is overloaded.
Injuries To The Growth Plates
When a growth plate is injured it causes it to close over prematurely, stopping the bone from lengthening any further. Damage to this section can be very painful and you'll know about it immediately. You will also notice the difference in bone length over time as an injury to the right femur (thigh bone) will only stop the growth in the right femur, so the left femur will keep growing until it reaches its maximum


length.
How Common Are These Injuries?
Fortunately, these injuries are not very common. If you follow some simple guidelines your child will have next to no chance of injury.
How To Ensure Your Child's Safety
* Warm up properly The warm up needs to start gently and slowly build in intensity. It should last a minimum of five minutes. A section of the warm up also needs to be specific to the task being undertaken in the main part of the program. For example, if your child was planning on playing basketball they may start by going for a five minute run then lightly running up and down the court in various directions, jumping, passing, blocking, etc. If they are training with weights they may ride a bike for five minutes then perform a light set of each exercise that they are planning on completing in that session.
* Avoid highly repetitive activities The most common injury to the epiphyses occurs in baseball when children are made to pitch too much. As their bodies are developing they need as much variety as possible. High repetition at a young age will always cause an injury to the bone, muscle, or joint.
* Weight training should always be supervised It is absolutely essential to have a qualified trainer available to supervise weight training sessions. This person should know the correct technique for all lifts and should also ensure the child never lifts heavy weights. A heavy weight would be something that could only be lifted 1-5 times. Lifts such as Shoulder Press and Squats should also be done using a lighter weight.

About the Author
Ray Kelly has worked in the health and fitness industry for 15 years and has a degree in Exercise Science. Sign up for his free 7 Day Weight Loss Course at Childhood Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Attacks

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