My daughter Jadzia, loves the times she can get down to Crossfit Manchester. Crossfit is ideal for kids as it’s a very varied and fun workout regime, which keeps them interested and entertained, whilst exercising the entire body. As we all know, with the lure of TV, and games consoles, and the demise of PE in schools, it can be hard to get kids interested in exercise and fitness. I’m just thankful we have a Crossfit gym nearby to help.
The situation is made even better with sites like Crossfit Kids doing open competitions for kids all over the world to do Crossfit style workouts, scaled to their age. The current competition is Cindy, which is nominally round of: 5 Pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats, and your score is as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes. As I said, this is scaled to age, so my 6 year old did this: 2 pull ups, 3 push ups, 4 squats AMRAP in 6 minutes. In fact, the pull ups were further scaled to jumping pull ups, and the push ups to box push ups.
Jadzia was ecstatic at the chance of entering this competition and talked of nothing else for the 2 week run up. Actually she was very interested in the possibility of winning a Crossfit Kids T-shirt. This is her competition entry:
She manages an impressive 16 rounds, 2 pull ups and 2 push ups. However this competition has raised an interesting question. I was asked by a concerned relative:
“I’m sure, knowing you, that you have checked any possible health risks that might be associated with putting a young child’s developing body through strenuous exercise, especially a young girl.”
My response was that firstly, I hardly think that a few minutes of body weight exercises, half of which are basically just standing up (the squats), could possibly be considered “strenuous exercise”. It is however simply “exercise”, something that kids seem to get very little of these days, as they develop obesity and diabetes in ever increasing numbers each year.
That other nice thing about timed work outs, is that you work at the rate your body allows. You can see that Jadzia speeds up significantly in the last minute, which just proves that she was working well within her ability and had some left in reserve.
Crossfit is deliberately an intense workout regime, I don’t pretend to understand all the science, but I know Crossfit works, simply because I am for sure in the best physical shape I’ve ever been. Take Friday for example, the workout was Jackie: 1,000m Row; 50 Thrusters at 20kg (basically a squat but when you stand up you lift a weight lifters bar over your head), followed by 30 pull ups. Last time I did this workout was 1st May and it took me 12 minutes 21 seconds. Today it took me 9 mins and 20 seconds, an astonishing 24% improvement in “fitness” in just 3 months!
I strongly recommend having a read of this free Crossfit Journal which has an excellent article on What is Fitness which is actually a surprising difficult thing to define.
However, to address the specific point about kids and exercise, let me quote the Jeff Martin, the person who runs Crossfit Kids:
“In our research we found plenty of people saying that weights were harmful to kids, and absolutely no evidence to support their statement. On the other hand we found plenty of evidence that it is beneficial”
You can read Martin’s research in the Crossfit Kids journals he publishes, specifically issues 2 and 3: Feb 2006 and March 2006 respectively. As for “especially a young girl”, as the most vulnerable gender in society, I think it’s even more important that girls have the physical confidence to protect themselves than boys. There is no reason in my mind why girls shouldn’t be equally physically capable people.
One comment on “prevailing wisdom”, I must confess that’s not something I really take much notice of, simply because it seems so often to be clearly wrong! Take weight for example, prevailing wisdom says that in order to lose weight you should cut out fat and eat loads of carbs instead. As a Nation, our diet is a lot less fatty than it used to be and yet obesity, diabetes and heart disease is a lot more common… that fact alone should make anyone with an enquiring mind stop and think about whether the “prevailing wisdom” is correct or not.
Similarly, look at how exercise is promoted: lots of athletic people bouncing on trampolines with big grins and no sweat, with the voice over saying how *easy* it is to lose those inches! Again, despite the record sales of home exercise machines: obesity and heart disease is still rife. If exercise and getting fit was so easy, as the prevailing wisdom seems to be telling us, then shouldn’t we all be fit and healthy athletes?
I believe it is a truism to say that your body adapts to its environmental needs. If you need to get out of a chair, your body will build the muscle and strength to allow you to do that, so long as you practice regularly. If you need to be able to run a mile, then your body will develop the stamina to allow you to do that, providing you keep asking it to do it. This is self evidently true, or exercise of any sort would result in no strength gain / muscle growth / stamina increase, whatsoever.
It’s also true to say that as children grow up, their developing bodies develop to fit their environment, but in a much more effective way than us non-growing adults. That’s why kids that watch TV all day and eat too many pie and chips, turn into 14 stone monsters at 9 years old (in the news about 3 months ago!). And why kids that grow up in an athletic environment, adapt very quickly to that need and develop an athletic physique and attitude towards fitness that should see them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
There is a lot of myth and speculation about childhood exercise and indeed childhood weight lifting. However there is next to no evidence to suggest that it’s in any way bad, and plenty to show that it’s beneficial. I foresee a long and athletic Crossfit future for myself and my family.