Myths and realities: 4 beliefs related to physical activity

Myths and realities: 4 beliefs related to physical activity

When it comes to physical activity for kids, it’s not always easy to separate myth from reality.

In their books Myths and realities about physical training (2012), Myths and realities about bodybuilding (2013), and Myths and realities about running (to be published this spring), kinesiologists Pierre-Mary Toussaint and Martin Lussier shed light on various beliefs conveyed in the world of fitness and physical activity. Can you tell the real from the fake?

1. Strength Training Harms Youth Growth
False. Concern about the possibility that resistance training may interfere with growth is unwarranted. According to current scientific knowledge, nothing indicates that weight training, especially if it is well supervised, can harm growth.

On the other hand, a fracture at the level of the growth cartilage can cause, in certain situations, a disturbance of growth. It risks causing unequal length of a limb or deviation of the bone in the event of welding of part of the cartilage. This type of fracture should not occur in bodybuilding if it is practiced properly, which is not the case in other sports where the risk of falling and impact is quite high.

2. The more you train, the less sick you get
True. Regular physical activity is associated with multiple health benefits. The most recognized are a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Several studies have also shown that regular physical activity, of moderate duration and intensity, has an influence on the risk of contracting a cold or the flu .

However, exercise of excessive intensity and duration may increase the risk of respiratory tract infections during training periods and one to two weeks after exercise.

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3. A child should not practice running
False. Children like to run, for them it is a spontaneous and pleasant activity. Many parents wonder about the interest and the risks of running when it extends over a relatively long distance. Running does involve very real risks of injury, whether you are a child or an adult, like any other physical activity. But this risk depends more on the type of activity than on the age of the person who practices it. In fact, sports such as hockey, downhill skiing, gymnastics or football present a much higher risk of injury than running, regardless of the participant’s age.

However, it is important to avoid hyperspecialization in children , that is to say that the physical activities practiced must be diversified in order to reduce the risk of overuse injuries (stress fractures, tendinopathies, etc.) and psychological fatigue. A varied choice of physical activities promotes the development of a range of motor skills and physical abilities. This is why running should be combined with other physical activities or sports such as hockey, cycling, karate, cross-country skiing, etc.

4. A child can even run a marathon.
True. Different opinions coexist in the scientific literature regarding the participation of children and adolescents in endurance races such as the marathon. However, no scientific data to date demonstrates that young people are exposed to greater risks than adults.

However, certain conditions must be met in order for a child or teenager to participate in a long-distance race such as a marathon:

The young person must decide on his own and be motivated enough to prepare for a marathon.
The young person must be supervised during his training.
Training should be about fun and participation, not about achieving records or fast times.
The youngster must not injure himself or feel pain during training.
The youngster should maintain normal growth and weight during the training period.
The young person must stay healthy, maintain healthy eating habits and get adequate sleep.
The young person must maintain healthy social relationships and good academic performance during the training period.
The girl should maintain normal menstruation.
The child must be accompanied by an adult during the marathon.
The youngster should not initiate a marathon or long-duration training when the temperature and humidity are too high. The temperature should not exceed 15 o C at the start and it should not rise above 20 to 25 o C during the day.
The young person should be followed by a health specialist who can explain to them and their parents the risks of preparing for and participating in a marathon.

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As parents, what myths do you hear most often about physical activity from your children?

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