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Kids and Fitness

Kids1Ah, the viral video – what haven’t we been able to learn from these gems that overflow our mailboxes every single day of the week.  Earlier this week I was sent (multiple times) this Youtube clip of the five year old Romanian “weightlifter” that has taken the world by storm, then Wednesday morning I stumbled upon an article on Yahoo covering the very same video along with commentary and countless (more than 9000) comments regarding the clip – and I managed to learn something along the way: activity = abuse.

I’ve watched the video a number of times now; the body control, balance and strength of this child is absolutely incredible – the things that this kid can do are bordering on outrageous. To me, what’s bothersome about the whole thing isn’t the fact that this child has obviously spent plenty of time training for the stunts performed in the video; it’s the insistence throughout the comments that the footage is a result of some kind of abuse.  Perhaps the coaching that this boy has received goes beyond what would customarily have been taught to a child of this age, but does that really constitute abuse?

There are lots of comments about a “normal childhood” and mentions of television and video games – has the bulk of our society forgotten that our bodies are designed to move?  I’d consider someone who plants their kid in front of a video game console for 5 hours a day, fueled by fast food and soda more abusive than someone who encourages physical activity.  The comments claim every thing from severely stunted growth to eating disorders in this “poor kids” future, but I think quite the opposite is much more likely.  I don’t know of many people who are capable of performing feats like this boy who have to be concerned about their weight, nor do I know a whole lot of people who’ve done primarily bodyweight movements who stop growing at a regular pace as they age (there are literally only a few movements with weight in the video and the boy looks far more comfortable moving the weight of his body than he does the barbell and dumbbells).

Kids2My kids watch TV, they play the occasional video game and every once in a while we hit a drive thru but they are also very active. Maybe not to the extent of the little guy in the video, but my five-year-old participates in gymnastics (and enjoys it very much), she is a big fan of bodyweight exercises and she has lifted weights as well.  I’ve never forced, or even so much as requested that she pick up a dumbbell or do a pull up. They are activities that she has seen me do and wants to try herself – because I’ve let her, does that make me a bad parent?

Could it be possible that this kid thoroughly enjoys the activities that he is performing and that there is a true desire behind them?  When I was his age I was obsessed with baseball, I needed no encouragement whatsoever to hit, throw or field a ball and I spent hour after hour each day immersed in anything and everything surrounding the sport – was I abused because my parents bought me the necessary equipment to participate and guided me as to how to swing a bat and field a grounder?

I’ll agree with the fact that impressionable children shouldn’t be forced into participation of activities that they don’t have any interest or in activities that could do them some sort of damage – I don’t like parents trying to live lost dreams through their children either, but I honestly have no problem in properly coaching a child in an activity that they have genuine interest in.

What I want to know is: When did a “normal childhood” go from playing, running, skipping and being active to sitting in front of some variety of electronic equipment and when did encouraging and enabling physical activity become a form of abuse?

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About Jeff Wilson Jeff Wilson has been involved in some form of sports and athletic training for more than two decades: as an athlete, a trainer and a writer.

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