Encouraging leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) participation in children and youth: The use of strength training programmes to improve health
Often perceived as an adult exercise activity, strength training can be used to effectively improve the health of children and youth. Implementing strength training that includes resistance training and plyometric programmes for children and youth may help to: increase bone mineral density, improve body composition, decrease adiposity, increase muscle mass, improve self-confidence, decrease sedentary behaviour, and decrease risk of becoming overweight or obese adult. Through organized strength training programmes, children and youth have the opportunity to make short-term gains in health and establish life long positive health outcomes. Although risks generally occur in child and youth physical activity participation, no reports have been made linking strength training programmes to direct injuries in children. When implementing child and youth strength training programmes, safety guidelines must be considered along with supervision. Basic programme criteria should include: 2-3 non-consecutive days of strength training per week, training sessions 30-40 minutes in length, exercises emphasizing posterior and anterior muscle groups, and performing exercises with high-repetitions/moderate loads. With these basic criteria, children may begin to experience improvements in health. As the health of children and youth continues to deteriorate worldwide, professionals in the field of leisure and recreation must take into consideration the use of strength training programmes. With age appropriate and modified strength training exercises, communities may begin to develop group strength training programmes for all ages. More specifically, strength training programmes for children provide additional leisure-time physical activity opportunities to reduce sedentary behaviour and encourage healthy, active lifestyles.
Keywords: Strength training, leisure-time physical activity, health, children and youth.