Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Psychological Effects of Strength Training on Children

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Psychological Effects of Strength Training on Children

Article excerpt

Strength training is often prescribed as part of a well-rounded exercise program for adults and its popularity among children continues to increase. Previously deemed unsafe and ineffective for children (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1983), strength training is now considered an important component of youth fitness conditioning programs (American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, 1988; Faigenbaum, Kraemer et al., 1996) and injury prevention strategies (American College of Sports Medicine, 1993). Improvements in various anatomical and physiological measures have been noted in children who have participated in appropriately designed and well-supervised strength training programs (Faigenbaum, 1993). Related information on the psychological benefits of youth strength training is limited, however.

Data from adult populations demonstrate that the effects of strength training extend beyond physical measures and include improvements in mental health and well-being (Dishman & Gettman, 1981; Doyne, et al., 1987; Melnick & Mookerjee, 1991; Stein & Motta, 1992; Tucker, 1982, 1983a). Tucker (1982) reported significantly higher values for self-concept and self-esteem (1983) in college-age men who participated in a strength training program and similar findings involving college-age men and women were reported by Melnick and Mookerjee (1991). Strength training has improved psychic vigor and physical self-esteem in men (Dishman & Geltman, 1981), and strength training appears to be just as effective as aerobic exercise in reducing clinical depression in women (Doyne et al., 1987; Stein & Motta, 1992). In the clinical setting, adult patients with higher ratings of arm strength self-efficacy achieved greater gains in arm strength than did patients with lower arm strength-self efficacy ratings (Ewart, Taylor, Reese, & DeBusk, 1983). Self-efficacy expectations appear to be meaningful determinants of exercise behavior in adults (Bandura, 1977, 1986), and may provide important information regarding the acquisition of new behaviors in younger populations. As such, self efficacy was selected as an outcome measure for this study.

Children who participate in physical fitness programs are reported to have higher self-concepts that those who are inactive (Zaichkowsky, L., Zaichkowsky, L., & Martinek, T., 1975; Martinek, T., Cheffers, J., & Zaichkowsky, L., 1978), although not all studies have reported positive relationships between fitness and childhood self-esteem (Kay, Felker, & Varoz, 1972). Despite these inconsistencies, a recent review on this topic suggests that children who participate in appropriately prescribed aerobic exercise programs have the potential to increase their self-efficacy, creativity, self-esteem, internal locus of control, test scores on cognitive functioning and classroom behavior (Welsh & Labbe, 1994).

Holloway, Beuter, and Duda (1988) reported that adolescent females who strength trained significantly improved their situationally specific self-efficacy expectations about strength training and other less-related tasks such as confrontation. In younger populations, anecdotal reports from prepubescent boys and girls and their parents suggest that strength training may positively influence socialization skills, mental discipline and self-concept (Faigenbaum, 1995). At this time, however, controlled studies exploring the potential psychological benefits of prepubescent strength training have not yet been performed.

Since the psychological benefits of aerobic exercise on children have been documented in the literature (Welsh & Labbe, 1994), it is reasonable to assume that anaerobic types of exercise such as strength training may also provide psychological beneficence. The popularity of strength training activities continues to increase and youth strength training programs have become important components of public health objectives (Department of Health and Human Services, 1990). …

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