Young people in fitness centres

More and more young people are using fitness centres these days. But just how healthy is this type of training for teenagers during puberty? In this health tip, we explain what you need to consider if your child wants to start training in a fitness centre.
In principle, strength training makes a lot of sense also for teenagers, because developing one’s muscles helps to prevent injuries at any age. This is why SWICA supports its customers in their pursuit of a healthy and active lifestyle (e.g. fitness centres, personal trainers, nutritional advisers, and many sports associations) with up to 1'300 francs* from COMPLETA FORTE, COMPLETA PRAEVENTA and OPTIMA supplementary insurance.

Children should not train with heavy weights before or during puberty. Exercising by using their own body weight or small additional weights is sufficient at this age. In the course of puberty, however, they can gradually assume the same training habits as adults, but by paying close attention to increasing the strain and intensity only gradually and in steady increments. Children who decide to start training for strength should know about the positive and negative effects that they will face.

Strength training during puberty

Muscle growth is influenced by the hormone testosterone. For example, by the end of puberty, the testosterone level in young men is so high that weight training becomes very effective. Therefore, strength training that aims to build muscle visibly only really makes sense when there are other obvious indicators, such as the growth of pubic hair, when the voice changes, or when there is a growth spurt.

This type of training is much less effective before puberty, and we recommend concentrating on what is referred to as intermuscular strength training instead. Furthermore, it is important to avoid excessive strain from impact and stretching in the phases before puberty. Such exercises can easily be replaced by ones that involve the body's axis of motion and that are performed while the body is in a more secure position.

What to consider

If your child is healthy and has normal athletic abilities, there's no need to first consult a doctor. On the other hand, if there are chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes or heart problems, you need to first contact your paediatrician to discuss the type and intensity of the training. We also recommend getting a precautionary medical checkup for children who have physical problems already before they start to train.

During the training phase, it is important to keep a close and regular eye on the bones, ligaments and tendons, because there may be negative symptoms from sustained, repeated and extreme forms of strain. For example, strong pain or sore muscles is a clear indicator of excessive strain.

Proper supervision

It is very important to not leave young people alone when they train in a fitness centre and that an instructor is always present to intervene if necessary. In addition, young people should train according to a varied plan and be given goals, which need to be explained. We also recommend that young people occasionally show their exercises to their trainer to prevent them from forming the wrong habits and unrealistic expectations. These trainers should intervene if they notice a young person becoming overly ambitious, and they should inform the parents if necessary.

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In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.