For kids, stretching and flexibility often seem to come naturally. Do they need to do specific stretches? When and why should kids stretch, and what kinds of kids' stretching exercises are best?
Just like adults, kids need to stretch their bodies. Especially during growth spurts, children's and teens' muscles may be tight. Make kids' stretching a part of their regular routine.
Why Kids' Stretching Is Important
- Stretching can prevent injuries.
- Stretching helps kids' bodies recover after exercise.
- Stretching helps kids' bodies become and remain flexible (able to move joints and muscles in a full range of motion) as they grow into adulthood.
- Flexible bodies are more agile and perform better.
- Stretching reduces muscle tension and feels good!
When Kids' Stretching Should Be Done
Kids can stretch before and after other physical activities, such as running, playing soccer, and so on. Or they can do an activity that incorporates stretching, such as yoga. Stretching done as part of a warm-up should be dynamic (moving), not static. Dynamic stretching could mean arm circles, leg swings, or torso twists.
After sports or physical play, kids should do a cool-down routine that includes some stretching. Now is the time for static stretches concentrating on the muscle groups they used in their exercise (say, calves, hamstrings, and quads after running). Show your child how to stretch into a position where she feels the muscle being activated (the sensation is of tightness, not pain), then hold, without bouncing, for 20 to 30 seconds. If your child has any injuries, consult a doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer about the safest and most effective kids' stretching exercises for her.
American Council on Exercise: Kids in Motion.
American Academy of Pediatrics: Promoting Physical Activity as a Way of Life.