Stretching: it’s something we’re told to do before and after any form of exercise, particularly sports. And it’s good advice! Stretching properly before physical activity can be just as important as the activity itself.
Listed below are some benefits of stretching:
- Stretching can prevent injuries: Stretching introduces smaller, slower movement to our bodies and muscles before starting a more rigorous and potentially high-impact activity.
- Stretching can help kids’ bodies recover: Building in time to stretch after exercise allows the heart rate to slow down gradually. It increases blood flow to muscles and can prevent soreness.
- Stretching increases flexibility: Flexibility comes more naturally to kids, but is something often lost as we age. Building stretches into a daily routine helps kids maintain their flexibility into adulthood.
- Stretching improves muscle and joint health: Stretching allows kids to use their muscles and joints to their fullest range of motion. It can relieve muscle tension, which is particularly helpful during growth spurts.
But there are a few things about stretching you should keep in mind before you start! Often, we are told to start stretching as a way to warm up our bodies. But stretching without warming up can also be harmful—especially if you stretch beyond your body’s limits. To avoid any injuries, it’s a good idea to do a quick and light warm-up, like speed walking or goofy dancing.
The types of stretches you do before and after exercise are also different. Before you exercise, we recommend doing dynamic, or moving, stretches. Leg swings, arm circles, and torso twists are great options. After exercise, you and your kids should focus on static, or stationary, stretches, particularly for the muscles they just used. This includes things like overhead arm stretches, toe touches, shoulder stretches, or knee lunges. Kids should be able to comfortably hold each position for 20-30 seconds while feeling tightness, but not pain.
Finally, you and your kids can (and should) stretch whenever you want! It doesn’t have to be limited to pre- and post-workouts. If your kids really enjoy stretching, try some activities that include stretching, like yoga or pilates.
Photo courtesy of Rodale Wellness