ST. LOUIS. (KFSN) -- Weightlifting and kids, how young is too young? The medical world is doing a 180 on the subject and now the benefits are outweighing the risks. Weightlifting can do so much more than build muscles and mass, it can create confidence and character.
Ashley Kent is a 15-year-old powerhouse. This 4'11 freshman lifts more than she weighs.
"I lift 135 pounds. I snatch 59, clean and jerk 71," Kent said.
She is a member of the Lift for Life Gym in St. Louis. She now travels the country with team USA competing in weightlifting. Kent explains, "I know how to make new friends, and like get along with others, and staying out of trouble."
That's the goal of this place, to take kids off the streets and give them some place to grow physically and mentally.
"It's not just pushing yourself physically," Joseph Miller, Executive Director of Lift for Life Gym said. "It's about growing. Your character is growing and your communication skills are enhanced. You're setting goals and you're achieving them. You're learning that you can accomplish great things in life."
In the 1970's, studies said weight training would cause growth plate damage and stunt growth. But, a new major review published in Pediatrics suggest that in fact, kids who weight train grow stronger; their height was not affected. And when done correctly, lifting weights can increase bone mineral density, improve motor performance skills and reduce the risk of injury in other sports.
Jamika Wynn, 12-year-old weightlifter said, "It changed me a lot because since I've been going here. I have lost 25 pounds."
Miller said, "Hopefully together we can lift them up, provide them more opportunities and they can become future leaders in our own community."
And what may seem like fun and games today could actually affect their future.
Darianna, 13-years-old said, "He told me that no matter what just be strong and be confident."
"It helps you with your temper, it helps you with your life," Wynn said. "It helps you with school work."
Antoine, 13-years-old said, "It gives you discipline like cause you have to listen to your coach to learn the moves. It makes you stronger too and then it makes your family proud seeing, see you doing something positive."
As for the ideal age to start weight training, studies show that while any age is good, getting kids involved around the age of seven to 12 may be more beneficial. Kids are eager to learn at this age. The nervous system is very plastic and more open to muscle memory.
Lift for life is a non-profit that's been around for 26 years. It's takes half-a-million dollars a year to keep the doors open and runs all on donations.
For more information, contact:
Lift for Life Gym
Lift for Life: Kids Can Weightlift