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.