Why Kids Must Stretch Before And After Exercise

Why Kids Must Stretch Before And After Exercise

If you’ve ever used exercise DVDs or participated in a workout class, you may recall that you were advised to do warm up stretches and post-exercise stretches. Now that you are working on your child’s fitness, you may be wondering if it’s just as necessary for him or her to perform stretches. It’s actually very important for anyone, no matter what their age, to stretch before and after exercise.

Why is stretching important?

Stretching helps muscles that are tight and tense feel more relaxed. It’s an important component of fitness and is meant to help prevent injury. It’s important to stretch before AND after exercising to reduce the risk of exercise-related injury.

The act of exercise can make your muscles tense up and shorten; proper stretching can help prevent this.

Misconceptions about stretching

One of the biggest misconceptions about stretching is that it’s a good idea to start stretching immediately before exercising. Do not instruct your child to do this! Stretching cold, tight muscles should be avoided. Instead have your child do a five minute warm-up.
Warm-ups usually take five to ten minutes; your child can march in place, or they can go for a short walk. What’s important is that the temperature of the body and muscles are raised in preparation for stretching and exercise.

Another misconception about stretching is that it will definitely keep the body from feeling sore after a tough workout or completely prevent injury. While stretching can help prevent injury, it’s still possible for your child to be injured if they perform a movement improperly or overexert his/herself. That’s why it’s important to for you or a trusted fitness expert to monitor their movements.

Types of stretches

Depending on the type of exercise your child intends to perform, you want to be sure that the stretches target those muscles specifically. It makes no sense to stretch and warm-up the legs while focusing primarily on the arms. Here are a few stretches for different parts of the body to get your child started.

Stretches for the arms:

+ Hand Down Spine Stretch

+ Shoulder Stretches

For the chest/torso:

+ Chest Stretch

For the back:

+ C Curve/Rolling Like A Ball Stretch

+ Cobra

For the legs:

+ Hamstring Stretches

+ Split Squats

For whole body:

+ Bridge

When stretching, have your child hold each pose for about 10 to 20 seconds.

Benefits of stretching

In addition to helping to prevent exercise-related injury, proper stretching makes the body more flexible. This isn’t limited to during exercise; constantly stretching the body can increase the body’s overall flexibility in time.

A child with flexibility issues due to a lack of fitness and obesity may find that regularly stretching can really make a difference. He or she may have struggled to touch their toes in the past but find it easier thanks to continuous stretching.

A more flexible body is a happier body that is better prepared for fitness routines. Give your child a healthy head start by assuring they stretch before and after he/she exercises.

[Image Credit: sunchild123, Richard Leeming]

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