If you’ve been around for any amount of time, you know that we REALLY love CrossFit. Weightlifting, circuit training, and other HIIT workouts are a fantastic way to build muscle, gain confidence, and feel like a total badass.
Weightlifting is important for adults of all ages. But is CrossFit safe for kids and teens? Should we be bringing our babies to the Box? Or allowing our teens to lift heavy?
The short answer is YES, but that’s not the end of the story. Read on to learn how to keep your kids and teens safe while introducing them to this sport we love.
CrossFit and Kids
There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the safety of CrossFit for younger athletes.
The consensus is that actual Olympic weightlifting isn’t a good idea for younger children (pre-teens and younger). That’s because most young athletes do not have the strength, body control, or form to perform many of these lifts correctly.
Similarly, some CrossFit-specific exercises may be too difficult and could pose potential risks.
However, most pediatricians agree that some weight training is not only safe for kids, but can be extremely beneficial. The key is to scale these exercises, allowing kids to learn the correct techniques to build on as they get older.
In fact, many licensed CrossFit facilities offer programs specifically designed for children as young as four years old. These programs create a healthy lifestyle, encouraging fun and fitness in young children.
Teenagers and CrossFit
Once children reach adolescence, they’re ready for more intensive physical training. At this age, they have better muscle control, more strength, and the ability to recognize when they’re overdoing a workout.
Teenage athletes are making great strides in the CrossFit community. The CrossFit Games even offers a teenager class, where young athletes can showcase their skills and get on leaderboards worldwide. By the time they reach adulthood, these incredible youngsters could be the next big names in the Games.
Benefits of CrossFit and Weightlifting for Teens
CrossFit is absolutely a perfect fit for teenage athletes. It combines weightlifting, gymnastics, cardio, HIIT, and other athletic skills, creating a diverse and ever-changing challenge.
It’s no secret that our country faces a significant health crisis. One in five teens in this country are obese, according to the Center for Disease Control. Read that again: 1 in 5. Obesity is a major factor in lifelong health issues like heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems, and certain cancers. Getting our teens involved in strength-building programs like CrossFit can not only help them stay in shape during their adolescent years but could also keep them healthy into adulthood.
However, CrossFit is more than just the physical benefits for teens. The sport provides tons of emotional support, too.
Working out (whether in or out of the Box) can dramatically impact stress levels. We were all teenagers once (though most of us don’t care to remember). It’s a stressful time. Regular exercise can help our teens work off their frustrations and boost their mood. Don’t believe us? Check out this article about the mental and emotional benefits of exercise.
Keeping Young Athletes Safe
Okay, so you know your kid can safely come to the Box with you. But how can you make sure they’re not overdoing it and injuring themselves in the process?
First, recognize that your child might not know when they’re exceeding their abilities. Medical professionals report more than 750,000 sports-related injuries every year, many due to overuse. Our kids don’t always acknowledge their limitations and may try skills beyond their physical abilities. Therefore, we need to gauge whether they can safely perform the skills assigned and encourage them to stop if they feel pain or discomfort.
Next, enforce recovery days (this goes for us grown-ups, too). Our bodies need downtime to recover and rebuild. Take at least two days every week to relax your muscles and do light exercise like walking or yoga instead. Make it a family activity and recover together!
Finally, make it fun. If your kids are enjoying doing the WOD with you, fantastic! But if they are always complaining about going to the gym, it’s okay for them to step away. We want our kids to equate exercise with fun, so forcing them into an activity isn’t beneficial for anyone. However, if your kid loves the Box (because, you know, it’s awesome), go all in! Find new and exciting ways to encourage their passion.