How to Improve Flexibility in Kids
Flexibility is an important component of physical fitness, and is crucial to children's participation in sports and their overall health 2. Most children are naturally flexible, but they can participate in simple activities like stretching, yoga or tai chi to help improve flexibility. Flexibility benefits include improved athletic performance, safer participation in physical activity, smoother physical movement, and increased physical and mental relaxation.
Encourage children to stretch daily. They should bend, reach and stretch, as much as possible, in both structured and everyday activities. Activities like stretching to reach a doorbell, trying to reach something on the counter and grabbing for a toy out of arm's reach may be irritating when the object of desire is something you don't want your child to have -- but at least the stretching movements are regularly increasing his flexibility and range of motion.
Participate in structured flexibility improving sessions. This can be as simple as doing 10 minutes of stretching activities with your child every morning and night, or as regulated as taking yoga or tai chi classes. Age-specific flexibility classes are helpful in targeting your child's specific development level, which is particularly important for younger children.
Instill good habits of pre-exercise stretching. If you child is involved in athletics, she should always stretch before participating -- no exceptions. In addition to preventing injury, your child will warm up her muscles to accommodate a wider range of motion, which increases flexibility.
Encourage good overall health. Flexibility is inherently more difficult for children who are overweight or sedentary. Regular movement -- whether playing soccer or riding a bike -- and proper nutrition are important elements for improving a child's flexibility.
Implement strength training. Many of the activities kids engage in naturally incorporate both strength and flexibility development -- from cartwheels to climbing on monkey bars. And toned, strong muscles can be more effectively stretched without injury.
Associate flexibility training with mental focus and relaxation 5. By incorporating mental techniques like deep breathing and meditation, children become more focused on their bodies, including specific muscles and joints, allowing them to increase their range of movement.
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