When a tween girl enters bodybuilding competitions, not everyone is cheering.
"I am concerned about preteen or teen bodybuilding for two reasons," says momlogic contributor pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson. "First, we do not know the direct effects on a developing body. Strength training has benefits at all ages, but muscle-building is entirely different. We do not know how bodybuilding will affect growing bones or muscles. We do not know how shifting hormones factor into the equation. And in a sport rife with steroid abuse, there may be some serious concerns about abuse of the drugs at a very early age."
"The second worry related to young bodybuilding has to do with an organized competition judging the way a young girl looks," Dr. Cara continues. "There are enough psychological hurdles facing young girls and their self-esteem. How can we expect young girls to engage in a competition based on body physique and not face the fall-out of eating disorders or dwindling self-esteem? As it stands, sports that place a premium on physique--diving, gymnastics, and ballet, among them--are highly associated with body image disorders, anorexia, and bulemia. It seems all too obvious that despite valuing strength over thinness, bodybuilding among preteens and teens would be subject to similar mini-epidemics involving body image and self esteem."