NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Weightlifting builds muscle, of course, but it also burns calories, increases bone density — warding off osteoporosis — and has a number of other health and psychological benefits.

So then why is weightlifting controversial for kids, especially when so many of them are overweight?

“One of the most frustrating myths in medicine is that kids can’t lift weights,” Dr. Robert Gotlin of Mount Sinai-Beth Israel Medical Center told CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez. “That’s not true. Kids can lift weights as young as 7 years of age.”

The key is that it has to be done correctly.

“Kids should lift lighter weights with more repetitions,” Gotlin said. “The key is to do it in a supervised way, do it with adult supervision, and do it properly.”

Fred Hahn, a renowned strength trainer, has written a book describing the why’s and how’s of safe weight training for children.

And he practices what he preaches with his 9-year-old daughter, Georgia, who has felt the benefits.

“I used to be really slow, and then I started doing this and I got faster,” Georgia said.

But what about other athletic activities such as distance running? These days, kids tend to focus on just one sport and practice it over and over again — and it’s that repetitive activity that can lead to overuse-type injuries.

“Any repetitive motion — the same exact way, the same exact way — can cause injuries to muscles, bones and, most importantly, to growth plates, the area of bones that’s actually growing,” Gotlin said.

Children also should stretch before exercising. That keeps ligaments and joints loose enough to allow their bones and muscles to grow normally, Gomez said.

When done correctly, athletics is one of the best things kids can do.

“They sleep better. They’re stronger in their sports,” said Veronika Balakhovsky, a mother.

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