Weight Training for Kids: A Path to Lifelong Health and Fitness

Posted on by Ross Harris

With the ever increasing sedentary nature of our world a common concern of parents is ensuring their children get enough physical activity. While activities like running, swimming, and playing team sports are widely accepted as healthy, there’s another aspect of fitness that deserves attention: weight training. In this blog, we’ll explore why children should lift weights and how it can positively impact their overall health and development.

Weight Training

1. Dispelling Myths

Before we dive into the benefits, let’s address some common misconceptions about strength training for kids:

  • Myth 1: Stunting Growth
    • Many parents worry that weightlifting will stunt their child’s growth. However, research shows that properly supervised strength training does not hinder growth. In fact, it can promote healthy bone development.
  • Myth 2: Risk of Injury
    • Safety is a valid concern, but when done correctly, strength training is safe for children. Proper form, appropriate weights, and supervision are crucial. It is interesting to note that injury rates in settings with good supervision and proper technique are much lower than those seen during most other sports or even in the school playground.

2. The Benefits of Weight Training

a. Muscle Strength and Endurance

  • Strength training helps kids build muscle strength and endurance. It’s not only about bulking up; but also about functional strength that supports daily activities.

b. Hormonal Response

1. Human growth hormone (HGH) is stimulated by strength training. HGH aids in building muscle, burning fat, and promoting bone growth. So rather than stunting growth, weight training actually assists it!

2. Testosterone is stimulated by strength training, however this varies by biological sex. Boys see significant increases in Testosterone after weight training, whereas girls see only minor changes. Testosterone is important for developing muscle size and strength

3. Strength training also increases insulin sensitivity, which helps control blood sugar and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.

c. Metabolic Health

  • Regular strength training increases lean body mass, which positively impacts metabolic rate. This can help prevent obesity and related health issues.

d. Strong Bones

  • Weight training strengthens bones and reduces the risk of fractures during sport and osteoporosis later in life.

e. Injury Prevention

  • Strong muscles and bones are less prone to injuries during sports and play.

f. Sports Performance

  • Strength training enhances athletic performance by improving power, agility, and coordination.

g. Establishing a Fitness Habit

  • Starting early builds a lifelong habit of physical activity and fitness.

h.  Can Promote Psychological Well-being and Improve Self-esteem


So what have we learnt…

Weight training can be extremely beneficial for children, laying the foundation for lifelong health and fitness.  There are many health and performance benefits that can be attained and lifting weights DOES NOT STUNT GROWTH!  Children should be encouraged to partake in resistance exercise but emphasis should be placed on gradual introduction, proper learning of technique, and above all safety.


The following articles take a detailed look at the research in this area

Weightlifting for Children and Adolescents: A Narrative Review (2022)

Resistance Training for Children and Adolescents (2020)

Strength Training by Children and Adolescents (2008)

Fighting the Effects of Aging – part 2 Cognitive Decline

Posted on by Ross Harris

In the quest for eternal youth, we often focus on physical appearance and vitality, but what about the health of our most vital organ—the brain? As we age, cognitive decline becomes a common concern, affecting memory, attention, and overall mental sharpness. Fortunately, a powerful ally is readily available: aerobic exercise. Research consistently shows that engaging in regular aerobic activities not only benefits our cardiovascular health but also plays a crucial role in preserving and enhancing cognitive function as we age.

cognitive decline

Understanding Cognitive Decline

Before delving into the positive effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive function, let’s briefly explore why cognitive decline occurs. Aging naturally brings changes to the brain, including a reduction in the size of certain regions, diminished blood flow, and alterations in neurotransmitter levels. These changes contribute to a decline in cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and processing speed. Lifestyle factors, such as exercise, can influence the extent of these changes and are a key player in promoting brain health.

The Brain-Boosting Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

  1. Increased Blood Flow and Oxygen Supply:

Aerobic exercise involves activities that elevate the heart rate and increase blood circulation throughout the body. This enhanced blood flow delivers a fresh supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain and supports the overall health of brain cells. Improved blood flow is associated with better cognitive function as it ensures that the brain receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function optimally.

  1. Neurotransmitter Release:

Aerobic exercise triggers the release of various neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These chemicals play a crucial role in regulating mood, attention, and memory. Additionally, exercise has been linked to increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and maintenance of neurons. The combination of neurotransmitter release and increased BDNF supports learning, memory, and overall cognitive function.

  1. Reduction of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation:

Aging is associated with increased oxidative stress and inflammation, which can contribute to the deterioration of brain cells. Aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, providing a protective effect on the brain. Regular physical activity stimulates the production of antioxidants that neutralise harmful free radicals, helping to maintain the health and integrity of brain cells.

  1. Enhanced Neurogenesis:

Aerobic exercise has been linked to increased neurogenesis, the process by which new neurons are generated in the brain. This occurs primarily in the hippocampus, a region critical for learning and memory. The creation of new neurons is essential for maintaining cognitive function and has been associated with improved memory.

Incorporating Aerobic Exercise into Your Routine

To reap the cognitive benefits of aerobic exercise, it’s essential to incorporate regular physical activity into your routine. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Alternatively, engage in 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, such as running or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

In the pursuit of healthy aging, preserving cognitive function is paramount. A potent tool in this endeavour is aerobic exercise. So, lace up those trainers, hit the pavement, and let your journey to a sharper, more resilient mind begin!


Mandolesi L, Polverino A, Montuori S, Foti F, Ferraioli G, Sorrentino P, Sorrentino G. Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits. Front Psychol. 2018 

Fighting the Effects of Aging – part 1 Sarcopenia

Posted on by Ross Harris

As we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes, and one of the less discussed yet critical issues is sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is characterized by the gradual decline in skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function as we grow older. This silent but impactful condition not only affects our physical health but can also have broader implications for overall well-being.

Sarcopenia - Physio Belfast

Understanding Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia typically begins to manifest around the age of 40, with a more noticeable decline after the age of 50. Contributing factors include hormonal changes, decreased physical activity, poor nutrition, and other age-related health issues. The decline in muscle mass leads to a lot of the medical issues we associate with getting older including – diminished strength, increased frailty, a higher risk of falls and fractures, and premature mortality.

Sarcopenia - Physio Belfast

Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors contribute to the development of sarcopenia, and understanding them is crucial for effective prevention and management. Hormonal changes, particularly a decline in testosterone and growth hormone levels, play a significant role. Additionally, a sedentary lifestyle, inadequate protein intake, chronic inflammation, and certain medical conditions can accelerate muscle loss.

Prevention and Management Strategies

The good news is that proactive measures can significantly mitigate the impact of Sarcopenia. Here are some strategies to slow down its progression:

  1. Regular Exercise: Engage in a combination of aerobic and resistance training exercises. Strength training, in particular, has been shown to be highly effective in preserving and building muscle mass.
  2. Balanced Nutrition: Adequate protein intake is crucial for muscle health. Ensure your diet includes lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, beans, and dairy. Additionally, sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D and calcium, is essential for overall bone and muscle health.
  3. Hormone Replacement Therapy: In some cases, hormonal imbalances may contribute to sarcopenia. Consult with a healthcare professional to explore hormone replacement therapy options.
  4. Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can exacerbate muscle weakness and fatigue. Make sure to maintain proper hydration levels, especially during physical activity.
  5. Lifestyle Modifications: Avoid a sedentary lifestyle by incorporating more movement into your daily routine. Simple activities like walking, gardening, or taking the stairs can make a significant difference.

Sarcopenia may be an inevitable part of aging, but its impact can be minimized with proactive measures. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and appropriate medical interventions, you can enhance muscle mass, strength, and overall quality of life as you age.

Sarcopenia - Physio Belfast

Top tips for injury prevention during marathon training

Posted on by Ross Harris

Running a marathon is a challenging and rewarding goal, but it also comes with the risk of getting injured. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner, you need to take care of your body and follow some best practices to avoid common running injuries. In this post, I will share some top tips for marathon runners to prevent injuries and enjoy a safe and successful race.

Marathon - Physio Belfast

1. Choose an appropriate marathon training programme

Spend some time choosing a training programme that is appropriate for you. If you are a beginner, or new to marathons, don’t pick an advanced programme. Likewise, if you have a manual job your body may not be able to cope with the same training load as a student. Things to consider are your age, running experience, occupation, and family commitments (having a young child means less sleep and slower recovery!). Choosing a programme that is too advanced and doesn’t suit your individual needs will inevitably lead to overuse and injury.

2. Increase your mileage gradually

One of the most common causes of running injuries is increasing your mileage too quickly and too soon. Your body needs time to adapt to the stress of running longer and harder, and if you overload it, you can end up with overuse injuries such as shin splints, runner’s knee, or Achilles tendinopathy. A general rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week.

3. Incorporate strength training

Strength training is not only beneficial for improving your running performance, but also for preventing injuries. Strength training can improve your muscle and tissue tolerance, endurance, and efficiency, and reduce the energy required for each running stride.

4. Listen to your body

Your body is your best guide when it comes to avoiding injuries. You need to pay attention to how you feel during and after your runs, and adjust your training accordingly. If you feel any pain, discomfort, or niggles, do not ignore them or try to run through them. Instead, take a break, ice the affected area, and seek professional advice if needed. Running through pain can worsen your injury and delay your recovery. Similarly, if you feel fatigued, ill, or stressed, take it easy and rest. Overtraining can lead to burnout, lowered immunity, and loss of form.

Marathon - Physio Belfast

6. Drink plenty of water

Hydration is crucial for runners, as it affects your body temperature, blood volume, heart rate, and muscle function. Dehydration can impair your performance, increase your perceived exertion, and cause cramps, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. To prevent dehydration, you should drink plenty of water before, during, and after your runs, and replenish any electrolytes that you lose through sweat. The amount of water you need depends on your body weight, sweat rate, and environmental conditions, but a good guideline is to drink about 500ml of water 2 hours before you run, 150-200ml every 15-20 minutes you run, and 500 – 1000ml after your run.

7. Get enough sleep

The average person requires 7-9 hours of sleep a night, however, this varies due to genetic and lifestyle factors.  If you’re training for a marathon you may find that you’re tired more often and require more sleep. Since sleep improves all areas of brain and cellular health it follows that it will improve your athletic performance as well. Professional athletes are well known for their sleep schedules. Runner’s World even has an article entitled “Sleep Your Way to a PR.”

The third stage of a typical sleep cycle is when the body heals itself. Human growth hormone (HGH) is released at this time from the pituitary gland and it plays a key role in building and repairing muscle tissue and bones, as well as helping the body use fat as fuel. Without the right amount of HGH in the blood, recovery from workouts is hindered. When a person is chronically sleep deprived their level of HGH decreases and another hormone, cortisol (also called the stress hormone) increases. High levels of cortisol can be dangerous because it may prohibit the body from recovering fully and it can also interfere with the repair and growth of soft tissue.

Marathon - Physio Belfast

8. Diet

You should consume both carbohydrates and protein before and after your exercise, either from food or supplements. These nutrients provide energy and help repair and build muscle tissue.

Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health and density, which may help prevent stress fractures. They also support muscle and nerve function, and help regulate inflammation. During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make it. But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement.

Running a marathon is an amazing achievement, but it also requires a lot of preparation and care. By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of getting injured and enjoy a safe and successful race. Remember to always listen to your body, train smart, and have fun!

Acupuncture – My Thoughts on its use in Physiotherapy

Posted on by Ross Harris

Patients regularly ask me whether Acupuncture or Dry Needling would help their condition. I’ve always felt there isn’t sufficient evidence to support these treatments and a recent post by Adam Meakins (The Sports Physio) on social media further strengthened my opinions. The following summarises his post –

  1. Acupuncture is not an ancient treatment

Chairman Mao revived Acupuncture  in 1966 to cover up a lack of medical services at the time. It hadn’t been used in China for 1000’s of years. Colquhoun & Novella (2013) Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo. Anesthesia and Analgesia.

2. Acupuncture wasn’t a treatment for pain

Chinese warriors originally used acupuncture as a blood letting treatment to help infected wounds heal better. Colquhoun & Novella (2013) Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo. Anesthesia and Analgesia.

3. Acupuncture is not specific

It doesn’t matter where you stick the needles, you get the same effect. Moffet et al (2009) Sham acupuncture may be as efficacious as true acupuncture: a systematic review of clinical trials. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine.

4. Acupuncture doesn’t even need to puncture the skin

Toothpicks pressed on the skin work just as well as piercing the skin with a needle. Cherkin et al (2009) Acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain. Archives of Internal Medicine.

5. Acupuncture doesn’t reduce pain much at all

Paley & Johnson (2020) Acupuncture for the relief of Chronic Pain: a synthesis of systematic reviews. Medicina


In my opinion I don’t feel there is the evidence to back up the use acupuncture or dry needling with musculoskeletal conditions and any results seen from these treatments are most likely due to the placebo effect.