BEAVERTON, Ore. -- At 6 years old, C.J. Sloan is one of the youngest clients at Bio Force Youth Fitness in Beaverton, where kids lift weights on machines just like mom and dad.
“At my gym he would say, ‘Daddy, I want to work out with you.’ And I had to say, ‘Son, you have to be 12 years old to get in,’” said C.J.’s father, Cedric Sloan.
But at Bio Force Youth Fitness, children as young as 5 work out, covering a circuit on seven machines in about 35 minutes.
The machines are specially designed for young clients.
“With the kids, you don’t want to damage growth plates. Machines are engineered to promote joint health versus damaging joints,” said Tyler Carey, owner of Bio Force Youth Fitness.
It has long been thought that weight training was not healthy for kids under the age of 13.
Carey says the emphasis here is not on building muscle but on training the brain.
“The younger kids tend to lack the hormones necessary for gains in muscle size but the strength gains that they get are from their body learning how to move the muscles the right way,” said Carey.
At Concordia University, KGW asked Cisco Reyes, an associate professor in exercise and sport science, to look at video of kids working out in the gym.
"I don't think they can do harm but as a parent, I would be focusing on the running and jumping versus actually getting on the machines and lifting the weights at any age. Five years old is just a bit too young," Reyes said.
Reyes said parents need to make sure their kids are consistent in achieving a full range of motion on the machines. “When they are actually getting help one-on-one, you see them working. But when the trainer steps away some of the kids are going back to just half effort.”
Parents are paying $99 a month for their kids to work out a couple of times a week and believe they’re seeing results.
"They’re gaining an enjoyment of exercise as well as strength and they’re improving in their sports,” said parent Tiffany Smith.
"He'll surpass me one day if he keeps doing what he’s doing now. He’s much faster than I was when I was younger," C.J.’s dad said as he watched him sprint by.