I have been asked a lot recently, by students and parents alike, if exercise can stunt growth. The answer is a resounding NO! This is a myth that I am going to dispel in this article. I understand that puberty and the maturation process is a natural part of each boy and girl. You should let the body run its course and not interfere. But let me be the first to tell you that resistance training will not interfere. In fact, I’m going to provide scientific research to prove that it can help increase the size of your bones.
When I am approached by a student with this question, my first rebuttal is “how tall are your parents?” This usually clears up part of the situation. My next comment is that weight training can only help. As with other physical activities there is a risk for injury. As I mentioned before, the pubescent years are fragile in that an injury can have a lasting effect. If you are doing resistance training with bad form or overexposing the axial skeleton, then you are putting your body at risk.
However, Bradney and her colleagues have proven that a correct exercise program has beneficial effects on bone mass, size and strength. The article, linked here, followed two groups prepubescent boys for 32 weeks. One group engaged in 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week and the other was a control. At the end of the 8 month session, the exercise group was compared to the controls. Results showed a double increase in bone mineral density of the exercise group compared to the controls. They concluded that the growing skeleton is responsive to moderate exercise.
Research like this has proven time and again that properly performed exercise not only doesn’t stunt growth, it produces stronger bones. At the Bernhardt Wellness Center, I provide exercise advice and workout routines for students to follow. I am certain that these will help produce strong young men. I just want the parents to rest assured that their boys aren’t at risk.