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It is quite alarming to note that the rate of childhood obesity worldwide has risen 10 times over the past four decades. A study published in 2017 showed that obesity rates children ages 5-19 has increased ten times from 1975 to 2016.
This development is a dramatic jump that just highlights how important it is to promote fitness among the youth. While diet is a very important factor in controlling this increase, exercise and physical activity also play a major role in keeping children and adolescents fit and healthy.
But a study actually found that teens, especially at 18 to 19, get as much exercise as the average 60 year old! According to the study, their goal is to encourage teens to reduce inactivity and increase lower intensity activities by focusing on higher intensity exercises. With this being said, there may be some eyebrows raised especially as higher intensity exercises for teenagers such as strength training has always been controversial.
Should teens practice strength training?
In 1990, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended against strength training prior to teens reaching physical maturity. However, what should be stressed out is that the report was not referring to all strength training exercises but only to weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding which involves the use of highly technical movements and maximal loads.
The fear with these exercises is that it can lead to injury and may damage the growth plate leading to a growth stunt.
While it is true that teens should not take part in intense bodybuilding exercises, they can still engage in workouts that can safely build up their strength. One great workout that teens can certainly benefit from is calisthenics.
Calisthenics Builds Strength
As mentioned earlier, calisthenics exercises help in improving strength but why is this important for young people? According to the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics, muscle strengthening activities are important in the health and wellbeing of the youth.
In Australia, the government guidelines clearly endorse muscle and bone strengthening activities at least 3 times a week for young people aged five to 18 years old. Maximal lift activities before reaching maturity are still not advised so the focus should be on exercises that build muscle strength endurance.
Calisthenics will provide teens the right foundation so that when they reach adulthood, their bodies can then safely and confidently increase on their strength training.
Improves sports performance and prevents injuries
A lot of teenagers engage in different sports activities so it is not uncommon for them to experience injury once in a while. It is interesting to point out though that some of these injuries do not happen on the football field or while on the basketball court, rather, they occur while weight training in the gym.
With high school and collegiate sports becoming more and more competitive, athletes resort to bodybuilding to gain advantage, however, if not carefully supervised, this can lead to major injuries. Calisthenics exercises on the other hand, have lower risk of injury, plus consistent practice can actually improve mobility and flexibility which can make teen athletes perform better and prevent sports injuries.
Athletes like runners can also benefit because calisthenics exercises can help them in improving their cardiovascular endurance. Calisthenics can go hand in hand with almost any other physical sport including soccer, cheerleading, figure skating and swimming.
It’s never too hard nor too easy
One of the top reasons why teens get unmotivated to exercise is because they often lack self-confidence. They feel embarrassed if they cannot perform an exercise well so instead of trying harder, they just tend to give up. This is usually an issue especially for teens who are non-athletic or are already obese.
Unlike sports, teens do not need to be in a competitive environment to practice calisthenics. It is also unlike weightlifting where teens have to constantly aim to lift the heavier load or bodybuilding where they are under pressure to look better than their peers. Since they are only using their body weight, teens can totally adjust the intensity of their workouts depending on their fitness level at a given time.
According to Dr. Barbara Brehm-Curtis, a professor of exercise and sport studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, weight training programs are safer when students track their own progress rather than compare themselves to others.
Creates a More Natural Lean Physique
One of the most common exercise mistakes is overtraining one part of the body. This is why there are cases of what they call “chicken legs” where a person can have massive chest and arms, while having very thin thighs and legs.
With calisthenics exercises, this can be avoided. This is because calisthenics targets large muscle groups in the body unlike isolation muscle training that only focuses on one muscle at a time. Push–ups for example exercise the muscles of the chest, shoulder, arms, and abdominals. While mountain climbers work the abdominals, back, hips, arms, legs and nearly the entire body at the same time.
Gymnasts are a good example of athletes who use bodyweight training in building their physique. Compared to bodybuilders who focus on mass, gymnasts have a muscular look that is more symmetrically balanced. When teens practice calisthenics, they are using their body weight to build muscle but since they are getting a full body workout, the growth will be more natural and even.
Accessible and Affordable
One of the leading hindrances stopping teens from exercising is the lack of exercise venue and equipment to exercise. For the average teenager, paying for a gym membership is not usually an option.
Calisthenics is an ideal solution to this concern because it does not really require any special equipment. It can be practiced anywhere, in the garage, in the yard or even indoors. Anyone, even teens, can start a calisthenics workout by selecting simple movements which they can advance based on their personal capabilities.
A Strong Foundation
Engaging in calisthenics workouts can definitely help teens to become stronger, more active and have higher self-confidence. This lays a foundation for them to be committed to fitness as they shift into adulthood.
Some of the simple yet effective calisthenics exercises teens can start with include full-body squats, push-ups, planks, lunges, mountain climbers and burpees.
But what if teens can’t perform these exercises?
Calisthenics exercises can be practiced by most people at any level of fitness. However, if you are someone who is having a difficulty in performing the exercises or if you are not seeing your desired results, it may be the lack of personalization that’s affecting your training.
This is why we created Calisthenics Academy: to offer a fully personalized training program reflecting exactly where your level is for optimal performance.
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