Young children should be encouraged to do weight training to help their physical development, according to a new study.

Researchers believe that strength-based exercises - such as squats, leg presses and deadlifts - could help to prepare youngsters to be more physically active throughout their lives.

The study suggests that the exercises enhance muscle strength at a young age and form an essential part of fundamental movement skill (FMS) development.

Read more Childhood obesity rates 'likely to double' if studies measure body fat not BMI

Experts involved in the research now warn that youngsters who do not work on these skills early on in life may not be able to participate in a variety of activities and sports as they get older.

Helen Collins, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and a Sport and Exercise Scientist at the University of Dundee, explained that strength training could help to promote good health in later life.

She said: “The finding that resistance training has a positive impact on FMS suggests that children could improve how well they can move by taking part in this mode of exercise.

“This could ultimately have an effect on physical activity levels, which is crucial for sustaining and promoting good health in childhood and later life.”

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh analysed 33 data sets from existing research that examined the effects of resistance training on FMS in 542 young people from 11 countries.

The participants - aged between eight and 18 - were from Canada, USA, Tunisia, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, UK, Brazil, Norway and Portugal.

Read more Expert backs 20mph Bill to help combat Scotland’s ‘obesity epidemic’

The study is the first review on this topic to include non-sporting participants and shows that isolated resistance training has a positive effect on the FMS of sprinting, jumping and throwing.

It comes as physical activity levels are declining with age across the globe.

This is despite current guidelines for children aged five to 18 that recommend at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day and taking part in activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least three days a week.

These activities contribute to the development of healthy bones, muscles and joints and a healthy cardiovascular system, experts say.

They also help with the maintenance of healthy body weight, provide psychological benefits and reduce the risk of several diseases.

Just last week, a report by a leading think tank suggested that obesity and other diseases could also be helped by plain packaging being introduced for crisps, sweets and sugary drinks.

The IPPR report suggested that eliminating the impact of branding and advertising would put unhealthy foods on a “level playing-field” with fruit and vegetables.

However the Scottish Government said it had no plans to look at the idea, while critics labelled the scheme “heavy-handed” and “insane”. The IPPR also argued that adverts for the products should only be allowed after the 9pm watershed.