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C H A P T E R 16. CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN SPORT AND EXERCISE. w Find out why absolute aerobic and cardiorespiratory endurance capacity increases from age 6 to age 20. (continued). Learning Objectives.

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C H A P T E R 16


w Find out why absolute aerobic and cardiorespiratory endurance capacity increases from age 6 to age 20.


Learning Objectives

w Find out at what age height and weight reach its peak rate of growth in boys and girls.

w Learn what changes occur with maximal and submaximal heart rate and pulmonary function and with growth.

w Discover how growth affects stroke volume and cardiac output at fixed rates of work.

Learning Objectives

w Learn how training improves aerobic and anaerobic capacities in prepubescent children.

w Discover how children can improve their strength safely.

w Review the effects of physical activity and regular training on a child’s growth and maturation.

w Examine the differences between children and adults with respect to thermoregulation.

Maturation—process of taking on the adult form and function – measured or expressed in different ways:

w Chronological age

w Skeletal age

w Stage of sexual maturation


Growth—an increase in the size of the body or its parts

Development—the functional changes that occur with growth

Phases of Growth and Development

Infancy—first year of life

Childhood—age 1 to puberty

Puberty—development of secondary sex characteristics and capability of sexual reproduction; usually 8-12 years old

Adolescence—puberty to completion of growth and development


Bone Growth

w Is complete when cartilage cells stop growing and epiphyseal plates are replaced by bone (by early 20s; varies from pre-teens to mid-20s; 2-3 yrs earlier in girls)

w Requires rich blood supply to deliver essential nutrients

w Requires calcium to build and maintain strength; vitamin D promotes calcium absorption from the small intestine during digestion

w Growth slows when blood calcium levels are too low; can lead later in life to osteoporosis

w Is helped by gravity-resisting exercise, which loads the bone, affecting bone width, density, and strength

Fractures of the epiphyseal plate

w Disrupts the blood supply

w Disrupts growth, which can lead to limb length discrepancies

Traumatic epiphysitis

w Inflammation of epiphysis from overuse (pitchers)

w Can lead to separation of epiphysis

w If caught early it can be treated without permanent damage

Bone Injuries and Growth

Muscle Growth

w Results primarily from hypertrophy of existing fibers due to increase in myofilaments and myofibrils

w Muscle length increases with bone growth due to increase in the number of sarcomeres in series

w Boys’ muscle mass peaks at about 50% of body weight at 18 to 25 years

w Girls’ muscle mass peaks at about 40% of body weight at 16 to 20 years

Growth and Fat Storage

w Fat is stored starting at birth

w Fat is stored by increasing the size and number of fat cells, but cells can only increase to a certain maximum volume and then new cells are formed

w Fat storage depends on diet, exercise habits, and heredity

w At maturity, fat content averages about 15% in males and about 25% in females

Key Points

Tissue Growth and Development

w Girls mature physiologically about 2 years earlier than boys

w Balance, agility, and coordination improve as children’s nervous systems develop.

w Myelination of neurons in the cerebral cortex—which speeds the transmission of impulses in those neurons—is necessary before fast reactions and skills are fully developed. This is usually not completed until during adolescence.

Physiological Responses to Exercise

w Strength increases

wGains in strength with growth also depend on neural maturation because neuromuscular control is limited until myelination is complete, usually around sexual maturity.

w Blood volume, heart size, and blood pressure increase

w Heart rate decreases

w Aerobic and anaerobic capacities and running economy increase

w Lung volume and peak flow increase


These data are for boys only.

Blood pressure

w Lower in children but progressively increases to adult levels in later teens

w Larger body size results in higher blood pressure

Cardiovascular function at a given oxygen uptake

w Smaller heart size and total blood volume of children result in a lower stroke volume

w Heart rate response is higher than adults at given rate of submaximal work

w Lower cardiac output than adults

w Therefore, a higher a-vO2 diff than adults

Submaximal Exercise and Growth


Q and a-vO2 as a Function of Oxygen Uptake


w Maximal stroke volume and Qmax are lower in children than in adults.

Key Points

Maximal Exercise and Growth

w HRmax is higher in children but decreases linearly with age.

w Lower oxygen delivery capacity (blood volume and pump capacity) limits performance at high absolute rates of work.


w VEmax increases with age until physical maturity at which point it begins to decrease with age.

Key Points

Lung Function and Growth

w As body size increases, lung size and lung function increase.

w Lung volumes and peak flow increase until growth is complete.

w Boys' absolute lung volumes and peak flow values are higher than girls' absolute values due to girls’ smaller body size.


w VO2max (L/min) peaks around age 17 to 21 in males and then decreases linearly with age.


w VO2max (L/min) has been shown to peak around age 12 to 15 in females, though the decrease after age 15 may be due to females tending to reduce physical activity.


w Absolute VO2max (L/min) is lower in children than adults at similar training levels.


w When VO2max is expressed relative to body weight, there is little difference in aerobic capacity between adults and children, thus, additional muscle mass increases maximal oxygen consumption.

Aerobic Capacity in Children

w Relative to body weight, running economy is lower inchildren compared to adults.



Absolute (i.e., l/min) Relative to body weight (i.e., ml/kg/min)

Anaerobic Capacity in Children

w Ability to perform anaerobic activities is lower than in adults

w Glycolytic capacity (i.e., glycolytic enzyme levels) is lower

w Produce less lactate and cannot attain as high RER values during maximal exercise as adults

  • Anaerobic mean and peak power outputs are lower than in adults, even when scaled for body mass

Resistance Training in Preadolescents

w May protect against injury and help build bones

w Improves motor skill coordination

w Increases strength largely through increased neural activation of motor units

w Causes little change in muscle size (i.e., little hypertrophy) and is considered safe if not overdone

Theoretical Model for Strength Development for Boys

How would the model differ for girls?

w Aerobic training improves cardiorespiratory endurance performance in children, but the changes in VO2max are less than expected.



Key Points

Training the Young Athlete

w Training programs for children should be conservative to reduce the risk of injury, overtraining, and loss of interest in the sport.

w An appropriate resistance training program is relatively safe for children.

Key Points

Training the Young Athlete

w Anaerobic capacity increases with anaerobic training.

w Regular training typically results in decreased total body fat, increased fat-free mass, and increased total body mass.

w Generally, training does not appear to significantly alter growth and maturation rates.

Motor Ability and Sport Performance

wMotor ability in boys generally increases for the first 18 years of life, although in girls it tends to plateau around puberty.

wSports performance improves dramatically through childhood and adolescence.

100-m freestyle

400-m freestyle

Age Group U.S. National Swimming Records

100-m run

1,500-m run

Age Group U.S. National Track Records

Thermal Stress and Children

w Evaporative heat loss is lower due to less sweat produced by sweat glands.

w Acclimatization to heat is slower in boys than adult men; this presumably is also true in girls.

w Conductive heat loss and gain is greater because of the child’s greater ratio of body surface area to mass, increasing risk for hypothermia in cold environments and hyperthermia in extremely hot environments (i.e., when environmental temperature is higher than body temperature).

w Exercising in extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, should be minimized in children.