When was the last time you noticed your child’s or any other child’s range of motion and flexibility? Have you noticed they have problems touching their toes or even ankles with straight legs? In addition to the obesity and sedentary epidemic, there has become a lack of muscle flexibility epidemic. In working with youth ages 8-13 on a regular basis, a large percentage of them male and female have horrible flexibility. Their lower back and hamstrings are so tight and underused they can barely stand on one foot much less bend at the waist to touch their foot. Ask a child to perform a sumo stretch as in the picture below and you will be astounded by what you see.
Flexibility is one of the core components of overall fitness. Yes, it is a use it or lose it skill. Children are more pliable than adults due to their bones still hardening as they mature and hit puberty. With kids sitting and starting at video screens more often, they are also losing range of motion that is extremely difficult to get back as an adult. Does this mean you have to enroll your child in Bikram Yoga? Absolutely not. What it does mean is teach your child some basic warm and cool down stretches as part of their sports and activities. Proper dynamic (in motion) stretching before movement, and static stretching after movement is completed.
While touching your toes is not an Olympic event unto itself, practicing flexibility movements does reduce injuries and is part of a healthy lifestyle. Take a few minutes with your students, children, and athletes to work on their stretches in good form. It’s the habits we instill in them now that change our next generation.
Matt Peale has seen his fair share of kids have the flexibility of a 70 year old as an NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out Learn To Move Academy for your school and sports organization.
Spending thousands of dollars on a single sport for a child only to see that child get burned out in 3 years, is that a quality time and financial investment? Unfortunately a large percentage of parents all around the United States have bought in hook, line, and sinker into this horrendous brainwashing. The Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine has seen the surgical curve for overuse injuries drop from 18-20 year olds, to 12-14 year olds. Why is this happening? Because kids are being wrongfully told they have to compete in one sport only from the age of 6-8 and up.
When we are talking about long term athletic development, sports specialization does not occur until after puberty. Children are still learning fundamental movement skills to achieve basic strength, balance, and stability. Not to mention their mental capacity to focus on more intense competition is also still being developed. Youth sports has become a big business and has lost its focus on creating a well rounded, athletic child. The importance to win now and forfeit learning has become ingrained way to early in a child’s life.
What can parents do to reduce this one sport win now pressure? Sign your child up for multiple sports while they are young and let them decide what they enjoy. All of the top professional athletes played a variety of sports growing up. It was not until they reached junior high or high school they began to specialize more, and even then they starred in multiple sports. Do not let the pressure of coaches who want to line their pockets be the deciding influence on your 9 year old. Registering them for exercise classes at your gym/health club is another great way to show them alternative healthy activities for those not interested in specific sports. Learn To Move Academy is developing a system for individuals to purchase so children learn these fundamental movements at home. Finally make sure they have fun. Learning winning and losing is important and not everyone is a champion for the season, but having fun in the process is vital to returning for more seasons.
Matt Peale is an NASM certified personal trainer since 2008 and works with youth both as a trainer and partner in Learn To Move Academy. Email Matt at email@example.com with any questions and comments.