Can Kids Exercise Too Much?

Although physical activity is crucial to children's development, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Get-Fit Guy explains the parameters of how much kids should exercise.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #207

Ultimately, when it comes to running, I let my kids run as much as they’d like – but I don’t actually sign them up for any events that require them to pound the pavement for hours on end to simply reach the finish line. I believe that the cons outweigh the pros.

Instead, I encourage my kids to participate in sports and events that require brief bursts of physical activity, such as soccer or tennis, or longer bursts of activity that aren’t extremely energy-depleting, such as 1-mile obstacle races or children’s distance triathlons (or even a “run-walk” 5K).

Should Kids Lift Weights?

When it comes to weight training, it can be a different story altogether. As this excellent article from ExRx.net notes:

  • Strength and power increases with proper weight training, even in children.

  • Neuromuscular coordination improvement in children has been linked to repetitive practice of the specific skill (regardless of the skill investigated), and that includes weight training.

  • Weight training is simply measured subjectively, and scaled according to a child’s own strength, which means that it is an activity that may be more suitable for children’s participation compared to sports where success is measured simply by victory or defeat.

Research shows that children can weight train for up to 15 hours per week with no deleterious effect to their hormones, growth plates, or health (and now you have a great excuse to get your kids out in the backyard to build that rock wall!).

Based on this, while I personally didn’t begin hoisting 10-pound dumbbells until I was 13 years old, my 6-year-old twin boys now join me in our weight room with their own tiny dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls, and I let them carry and lift heavy objects as much as their heart pleases (while of course being careful to teach them proper lifting form to protect their little backs and joints).

The only caveat to this is that science has yet to prove that utilization of maximal weights is safe. Maximal weight is anything that a child can only feasibly lift one time, such as a heavy barbell squat or deadlift. So I don’t think weight lifting competitions are a good idea for a growing child.

Get-Fit Guy's Approach to Children and Exercise

Ultimately, the Get-Fit Guy take on childrens’ exercise is this: Let your kids lift heavy objects, move all day long, and sprint as much as they want, but be careful about putting them into activities that require chronic repetitive motion for hours on end. The research simply doesn’t yet show that this is safe for children – and frankly, they’ll have plenty of time to run marathons and do Ironman triathlons after they’ve gone through puberty.

If you have more questions about how much kids should exercise, then join the conversation over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

Boy lifting weights image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.