This is part of a three-part series for Sports Scientists.Youth Athletic Development Webinar: Wednesday, 20 September 2023
Practical Approaches to Improve Recovery Webinar: Wednesday, 4 October 2023
Communication with Stakeholders and Athletes Webinar: Wednesday, 18 October 2023
Establishing good health and physical activity habits during the early stages of life may drive children and adolescents to continue to have an active lifestyle during adulthood. Through increased physical activity, specific muscular adaptations and enhancement in motor skill development will occur. Exercise also plays a role in skeletal health, prevention of excess body fat accumulation, and improvements in psychological health and well-being. This helps prevent osteoporosis, obesity, and other comorbidities that may develop later in life. Furthermore, regular participation in aerobic physical activity improves mood, self-appraisal, mental discipline, and socialisation.
Much of the activities that young children engage in should have an emphasis in enjoyment, peer-to-peer interaction, safety, age-appropriateness, and effectiveness. The fun factor promotes exercise adherence which is especially important for girls because they are more inclined to significantly decrease their level of activity after they reach puberty. Children and adolescents also enjoy the social interaction during training sessions, games, and competitions, which is another important factor that encourages physical activity participation. Training programs for children must be safe and guided by an expert so that under or overtraining does not occur, and injuries can be prevented. Exposing children to multiple physical activities and sports is far more beneficial in encouraging exercise and sport adherence. Specialising in one sport at an early age (<15 years) may result in overtraining, burnout, and a less positive psychosocial development.