Why kids should be stretching
From Michelle Obama to the National Football League, it seems everyone is encouraging kids to engage in physical fitness. It’s equally important to get kids to stretch before and after being active – and this habit should be reinforced early on, one expert says.
Stretching improves flexibility, and flexibility is as important as strength for sports performance and injury prevention in growing children, said Dr. Bert Knuth, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Children’s Hospital.
“It’s often thought of as boring and trivial, but stretching is crucial – even for kids,” Dr. Knuth says. “Always warm up and cool down. Warm up with a short aerobic activity before you perform dynamic stretches. Static post-exercise stretches are a great way to cool down.”
In recent years, so-called static stretching – where you reach and hold a stretch for a short period of time – has been criticized in several studies as not only unnecessary but also counterproductive; dynamic stretching – using repetitive movement to warm up your body – has become the go-to standard in fitness circles.
But kids, Dr. Knuth says, can benefit from both static and dynamic stretching before and after sports and other high-intensity activities. By learning proper stretching techniques at a young age, kids make this a habit and also learn to identify pain, soreness, tenderness, hyperextension and other warning signs that can indicate injury.
“Stretching is always good and should be tailored to each individual’s age, activity, fitness levels and goals,” Dr. Knuth said.
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About the Author
Lisa Parro, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children’s Hospital. A former journalist, Lisa has been in health care public relations since 2008 and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs.