Over the Thanksgiving weekend, country singer Jessie James Decker caused a stir when she posted photos on Instagram of her ridiculously fit kids, which she shares with her husband, former Jets wide receiver Eric Decker, 35.
The Decker kids — Vivianne, 8, Eric Jr., 7, and Forrest, 4 — were enjoying a family vacation in Mexico, frolicking on a palm-lined beach in their bathing suits. The kids looked playful, happy — and completely ripped by their tanned six-packs, which seemed to suggest that the munchkins were bulking up on protein shakes instead of munching on PB&Js.
Online commenters were quick to accuse the 34-year-old mother of digitally editing out the six-packs on her children’s stomachs, or worse, of overtraining and not feeding them.
“It’s the ‘mummy’s starving us’ diet plan,” wrote one, while another claimed: “Yeah, they work those kids to the bone man, there’s no getting around it.”
James Decker has defended his lovebirds, calling such claims “crazy” and attributing their ripped physiques to athletic genes and an active lifestyle.
“How weird our world has become about the body and what’s normal and what’s not,” she wrote in an Instagram post. She went on to say that Vivianne participates in “elite competitive gymnastics,” while Eric Jr. has soccer aspirations and dances Forrest for hours every day.
Experts say the Decker kids’ bodies aren’t exactly normal, but they’re not necessarily unhealthy either.
“If you take any part of society, there will be extremes on both ends. Even 47 year old men: Some will be extremely ripped and another guy will look like he doesn’t have a muscle in his body. It’s the bell curve,” Mike Manzo, a physical therapist and co-founder of Atlantic Physical Therapy Center in New Jersey, told The Post. “Children clearly won the genetic lottery.”
Children are also products of their environment and of what is likely a family where fitness is stressed. “It’s what the kids see around the house,” Manzo said. “Maybe the Deckers are people who work out and are always doing something to keep fit.”
Manzo doesn’t know exactly what the Decker kids are doing to achieve their sculpted abs, but he notices that kids are increasingly prematurely thrust into intense workout regimens. Early specialization in one sport led to an increase in overuse injuries.
“We’re seeing strength training from a younger age,” Manzo continued. “There is a cottage industry of expensive sports training facilities that comes with the promise of athletic scholarships that will most likely never materialize.”
He said children as young as 7 are doing resistance or weight training when they should be focusing on fundamental movements like crawling, jumping, squatting, pushing and pulling – especially when their bodies are changing so quickly . There’s no magic age for kids to start hitting the weight room, but Manzo said once they have control of their movements, then it’s okay to add light weights.
A good rule of thumb is that the number of hours per week a child focuses on a particular sport should not exceed their age. For example, an 8-year-old should play no more than eight hours of soccer each week.
“You don’t want to be repeating the same muscles,” he said, adding that children benefit physically from the simple pleasures of childhood. “When you play tag, ride a bike and climb a tree, that’s what a human body should be doing at that age.”