Q: My son is 10 and showing interest in coming to the gym with me. Is it safe for him to lift weights?

A: Yes. It is absolutely OK to bring your pre-teen son [or daughter] with you to the gym as long as you follow some basic guidelines:

1. Be sure you are with your child, every time, in the gym and paying attention to what he [or she] is doing.

2. Be sure your child is having fun in the gym; do not make it a chore or something that must be completed.

3. Be sure the kids are still having fun outdoors and that the gym does not replace playtime.

4. Be sure that your child does not lift heavy weights improperly. Better yet, have them do a lot of body-weight exercises.

5. Be sure to think outside of the gym. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, take them out to fly a kite or race them up and down the slide or go throw a ball around. Remember: Kids do what they are shown, so be a good role model.

6. Be sure to include your child’s friends in activities inside the gym and out. Organize what you will do in the gym before you get there so the kids are not bored in the first 10 minutes. After a few times, have the kids help to plan the workout they (and you) will do that day.

7. Be sure to include healthy snacks before and after a workout. Use this time to educate through participation.

If you want are concerned that strength training might stunt your child’s growth and cause musculoskeletal problems, based on available scientific information, it won’t inhibit a child’s growth under normal circumstances.

Strength training can, however, cause injury when heavy weights are used or improper exercise technique is employed. When carefully supervised and correctly performed, strength can actually lower a child’s risk of sustaining a sports-related injury since higher levels of muscular fitness serve to protect the musculoskeletal system.

Strength training can and should provide a safe and productive exercise for children who show an interest in the activity.

As a matter of fact, many fitness clubs are now offering fitness classes for teens and pre-teens in order to get them off the couch, away from video games and the TV and get them more comfortable in a gym environment before social issues have an effect on their self-esteem.

As well, there are fitness certifications for personal trainers that are specific to youth fitness. The youth are our future and, by 2010, 50 per cent of our youth will be overweight!

So lead by example; get your kids involved.

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE-certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.pkfitness.yk.ca/Clients. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.