My brother has lost a lot of weight and has saggy skin. He is just 14 years old, so is it the right time for him to weight-train? Will it affect his growth?
First, let me bust a myth — weight training does not stunt the growth of children. Kids keep growing until the growth plates — located at the end of long bones — close, normally around puberty. The length of the long bones determine the height. Unless there is a very rare case of extreme growth plate injury or a hormone issue affecting the child’s growth, there is no problem at all. How tall a child grows is largely dependent on genes and not by weight training.
Weight training, in fact, will make him stronger and injury-proof. It will create a good fitness base for him to ensure not to bounce back to his previous bodyweight again. So he will be less likely to get fat again. Strength training for children and adolescents has a plethora of benefits like lower rates of sports-related injury, increased bone strength index, decreased risk of fractures, better mental health and improved self esteem and confidence.
With the increasing rate of child obesity and teenage diabetes these days, it makes more sense for children to start weight training early.
However the execution and scaling of these exercises need to be carefully monitored to ensure safety. Make sure he starts under the guidance of a qualified personal trainer who can use many tools like bodyweight, free weights, machines, and plyometrics smartly to create a well designed strength programme for kids to ensure safety and progression.
Regarding a solution to your brother’s problem, weight training and proper nutrition will hugely help him but do not expect any visibly substantial muscle growth until the time he reaches puberty. This is because the boy won’t have enough testosterone to build muscle until he reaches puberty. But he will still definitely build the tone and strength to carry on after puberty. Also the skin is most likely to adjust with time because of his growing age and high elasticity (unlike adults after 30s). The skin cell turnover rate, at this age, is very high so new skin development will happen over time that should take care of this issue.
So go ahead and make him join a gym under professional supervision. And keep his protein intake and good fat intake and overall nutrition healthy for optimally healthy skin.
Abhinav Malhotra is a sports nutritionist, exercise referral and lower back specialist and master trainer at Fitness First. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.