Can Weight Lifting Stunt Growth?
During the mid-1900s when weightlifting got popular, there was very little known about its effects on the human body. Not many studies had been done exercising and weightlifting back then and so many myths were formed regarding it. Stunted growth due to weightlifting was one of those infamous myths which is believed by many people till date even though scientists have proven it wrong in many research studies.
This myth is mostly believed by children and teenagers and their parents as they get scared that it will stunt the child or the teen’s growth and maybe they won’t be able to reach the ideal height for their body which they could have if not for weightlifting.
What are Growth Plates and their importance?
An average human being keeps on growing from the very moment they were born till their late teen-ages or sometimes maybe to their early 20s. One’s skeleton will keep on growing until they reach the biological growth limit of the individual. Also our body will keep on morphing and stretching to accommodate to the continuous growth of our skeleton.
If one may have to explain growth plates then it can be explained to be the long bones which are present in our body. They are present in our shoulders, hands, palms, fingers, thighs, legs and foot. The scientific name given to it is the Epiphyseal plates. The many long bones present in our body are clavicle, humerus, radius, ulna, metacarpus, phalanges, femur, tibia and fibula. These bones are actually made out of cartilage. When the blood vessels start entering the cartilage starts transforming into bones because of the deposition of minerals like calcium. This is how the cartilage grows, hardens and lay down more bones. Once the cartilage is done calcifying then it stops growing altogether.
Whenever you hear anyone talking about the damage caused to the growth plates just know they are mainly referring to the three long bones in our legs which are responsible for our height. If I be a little more specific then these would be femur, tibia and fibula.
Boys tend to achieve their maximum height at the age of 16 or a little more and they finish puberty at the age 18 years of age. Girls finish this same cycle just few years before the boys. It is during this period that our bones are growing and the part of our bones which are growing and making us tall are the growth plates. This growth plates are nothing but cartilage as being told before and it is known as the hyaline cartilage. It composes a lot of collagen and also have zero nerves or blood vessels in it.
Does lifting have any impact on the Growth Plates?
Now coming to the point very soon, it is very common for adults who have gotten their legs broken while they were children to end up with one leg shorter than the other and the same can happen to the arms and everything else. This is still not the ultimate truth because our can sometimes heal from these damages easily.
So yes one can end up with stunted growth due to damage caused to the growth plates but one thing you should know that having a fracture is nowhere the same as lifting heavy weights. Lifting weights is nothing but a stimulus for our bones very similar to jumping, or playing sports or doing any kinds of physical activities.
Is weightlifting safe?
If a child is made to sit all throughout the day then it is very evident that his/her bones are going to be a lot weaker than the bones of another child who is running around, playing and exercising. The very reason why old people tend to fracture their bones so easily is because of the lack of movement and the other side of this fact is because children move around so much more that they don’t fracture their bones very easily. There have been numerous studies done proving that resistance training helps in the improvement of the bone-mineral density. Even in one study where 25 well trained junior weightlifters’ bone densities were compared to their non-weightlifting counterparts it has been seen clearly that the former has a significantly greater bone-mineral densities.
We all like to believe that a good diet with the perfect proportion of vitamins and minerals will make our bones healthy but if this diet is run two exactly identical people physical ability wise then the one who has done any kind of weightlifting will end up having the stronger bone. This is applicable for all kids, teenagers, adults as well as older people.
Our bones will only get healthier when we subject them to a reasonable amount of consistent load over time. It is damaging to our bones and tissues when we overstimulate them i.e., over training and sometimes younger weightlifters face this problem a lot. But again this is regarding over training and not heavy weightlifting.
So if you over strain yourself you are definitely going to be negatively impacted by it, this is applicable for everyone i.e., children, teenagers and adults. But when done right it can improve the strength of your bones and muscles. But no study were able to prove that weightlifting stunts the growth of our bones.
Also there weightlifting can be helpful for you in ways you never knew. Sitting in the classroom or in office for 8 hours a day can certainly do a lot of harm to your back so weightlifting can help fix that damage. Exercises such as dead lifts is really helpful for the back and the spine. But of course proper form is need to be learnt and so teenagers or anyone else should do it under the guidance of an expertise.
There are also some more myths that doing squats is bad for the knees but it is the exact opposite of it that’s true. Weightlifting in general is really good for the joints and thus has also been said to be the number one treatment for osteoarthritis and other degenerative conditions found in older people. Extensive research have proven that a weightlifting program is equally safe like any other sports in which teenagers and also children can take part in. The majority of injuries that happens during weightlifting is due to bad form and also using heavier weights when you are not accustomed to them.
A lot may disagree with children doing weightlifting due to that fact they haven’t reached puberty yet and experienced an increase in the amount of testosterone in their body. But studies have proven that children can increase their strength by almost 50% if they follow a well-designed strength program just in 8 weeks. In a study published by the Research Quarterly which had 34 boys all aged 7 -12 years age has shown that those who weightlift once every week have increased strength. Even doing it twice a week is more than enough. This will not decrease the chance of injury but also will strengthen the muscles specially the joints.
So does Weightlifting actually stunt growth?
In conclusion it can be said that growth is not stunted by weightlifting rather improper lifting can cause fractures due to damage done to the growth plates. But this is very safe for teens and even those who are younger to them and also helps in strengthening the bones and tissues when proper form and resistance is put into use. As with any other exercise make sure that weight lifting is done done proper supervision of a gym coach