Will exercising impair growth in children and adolescents?

In a word, no. That weight training or resistance training of any sort will stunt a child’s growth in terms of height, is a common misconception among parents and teenagers alike. A person’s height, or full possible growth, depends upon a lot of genetic and environmental factors, mainly, nutrition.

Also, if it were really so, the world wouldn’t have seen the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger (1.88m, started bodybuilding at the age of 15) or Ronnie Coleman (1.80m, started bodybuilding at the age of 12). Even athletes like Roger Federer (1.85m) or Cristiano Ronaldo (1.85m) started out quite early in their respective fields of sports, of which obviously, exercising was a crucial part.

Growth or increase in height, occurs in the growth plate or the epiphyseal plate. It is found at the ends of the bones in children and adolescents. The function of a growth plate is to determine the size of the bone. Since the bones grow around the growth plate, the growth plates are the last of the bones to harden. This makes them more vulnerable to fractures and breaks. Weight or resistance training has proven to help the body gain muscle mass and increase bone density, which in turn, makes one stronger. So unless one actually drops a weight on ones growth plate, weight lifting will not impair growth.

However, because the growth plates are soft, they are more susceptible to breaks and injuries. Certain sports like soccer, rollerblading or football can hence be more dangerous than bodybuilding. Injuries can happen not only in the realm of bodybuilding or sports, but in everyday life if one is not careful. Exercising, as the very first rule, lays huge emphasis on form (the correct posture in which a movement is meant to be executed). As long as one maintains correct form and exercises properly, with the inclusion of a healthy wholesome diet, weight training or resistance training will only help children and young adults grow to their full potential and become healthy individuals.

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