Should I let my 14 year old go to the gym? What parents need to know.

Is the gym safe for young teenagers?  Here's what the experts recommend.  (Image: Getty; illustration by Quinn Lemmers)

Is the gym safe for young teenagers? Here’s what the experts recommend. (Image: Getty; illustration by Quinn Lemmers)

Regular exercise is encouraged as part of healthy living for children and adolescents. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teens get 60 minutes of physical activity daily, along with three days that include activities that strengthen bones and muscles.

While most parents encourage their kids to be active through organized sports, it’s understandable that teens are interested in hitting the gym, especially if their parents or friends work out at the gym. But that raises a huge question: Should you let your 14-year-old hit the gym? How can you do this safely, both mentally and physically?

For the record, experts say it’s perfectly fine for most teens to work out at the gym, but there are some parameters and safety measures that need to be in place first.

Is it safe for a teenager to go to the gym?

Experts agree that the gym can be a safe place for kids to get a good workout. “It’s great for kids to be active, and exercise in the gym is a good place to do that,” said Dr. She is a sports medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles and a team physician for Angel City Football Club and LA Galaxy, she tells Yahoo Life.

Zaslow says strength training is “part of a healthy exercise program and can be done safely with children.”

Dr. Alison Crepeau, Connecticut Childrens orthopedic surgeon, agrees. “It’s safe and beneficial for a teenager to do weight and strength training,” she tells Yahoo Life. “There were concerns about not wanting children who were still growing to do weight training, but this was not found to be a problem.”

But there’s a lot more that needs to be considered than just taking a child to the local gym and letting them go to work. “They’ll need supervision,” Zaslow says. “Just having a kid skip the gym is probably not the best option.”

That’s why it’s so important for kids to get some sort of instruction in how to use gym equipment, along with why they’re doing certain exercises, James Beitzel, clinical coordinator at Northwestern Medicine Athletic Training and Sports Performance tells Yahoo Life Center . He notes that many middle and high school physical education systems have incorporated weight training into their curriculum, which can help teens get at least some idea of ​​what they’re doing. “This makes education about proper exercise selection, form, and progression a good foundation to build on,” he says.

But that may not be enough, and kids will often benefit from meeting with a trainer at the gym to learn more and ask questions, Beitzel says.

What about the mental aspects of going to the gym?

Crepeau says there is “definitely a fine line” between supporting or encouraging children to be physically active and conveying a toxic diet culture or unhealthy messages about body image. Dr. Jason P. Womack, chief of the division of sports medicine at Rutgers University – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, agrees.

“We do a good job talking about how important sports and outdoor activity are to your health,” she tells Yahoo Life. “But we don’t do a great job explaining how weight training is part of it.” Womack recommends talking to kids about how strength training can help them perform better in sports and be part of a healthy lifestyle rather than talking about how it will make them look a certain way.

Crepeau notes that the gym chosen by the parents and its environment are also important. Families ideally want to find one that doesn’t focus on achieving a certain look and is more focused on achieving health goals.

Is there anything a teenager should avoid at the gym?

In general, teens can do most things at the gym, Crepeau says. “There’s nothing we would say to avoid other than power lifting and trying to maximize weights,” she says.

Womack also discourages power lifting. “Outside of really heavy lifting, there’s nothing off limits,” he says.

How to make sure a teenager is safe at the gym

Crepeau advises parents to go to the gym with their child, pointing out that many training facilities still do not allow children under the age of 18 to train without the presence of a parent or guardian.

“They should get coaching and instruction on how to do the exercises,” says Zaslow. “Start with very low weights so they get the right form and movement patterns. They can slowly build up the amount of weight from there.”

Zaslow notes that the most common injuries with children doing strength training involve weights dropped on their toes and fingers getting stuck in machines, so parents will want to make sure they pay special attention to those areas when talking about safety. .

Overall, experts say the gym can be a good outlet for kids and promote a healthy lifestyle. “If the child asks to go to the gym, be supportive,” says Beitzel.

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