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young kids stretching

Importance of Stretching for Young Athletes

Many coaches incorporate stretching into their practices and games. Yet, many young athletes don’t quite understand how important stretching is. They might rush through their stretches or use the time to catch up with their friends. Off the field, they might forget all about stretching, which means they’re only doing it when a coach is in front of them.

However, it’s essential for your young athlete to also practice at home to improve their performance, prevent future injuries, and recover quickly so they’re ready for the next day.

As a parent, you want to set your child up for success with their athletic endeavors. Understanding why stretching is important can help you talk to your child about it and ensure they are practicing it frequently.

Here are some guidelines about how young athletes should stretch to get the maximum benefits.

When to stretch

Athletes should stretch before and after undergoing a strenuous workout. They should do some sort of dynamic warm-up first, such as walking, jogging, doing jumping jacks, or marching in place to get their body warmed up. Then, they can focus on static stretches that target the muscle groups they will be working on during their workout. When the activity is over, they should cool down with some static stretches that target the muscle groups they just worked.

Athletes can also benefit from stretching at night to loosen up their muscles, especially if they did an intense workout earlier in the day. In addition, nighttime stretching can help young minds calm down, making it easier for them to fall asleep and helping them stay asleep all night long.

How often to stretch

At the very least, athletes should stretch before and after each workout to help their bodies flush out any harmful waste that may have built up in their muscles. As long as they are not feeling any pain, stretching more frequently should not pose a problem for most athletes and can benefit them in several ways.

Who should avoid stretching

Talk to your child’s doctor if they are experiencing pain, inflammation, or swelling, as these can be signs of an injury that could be made worse from stretching.

Stretching as recovery

Kids might feel too tired after a game or practice to stretch, but they should view it as a vital part of the recovery process. Stretching after a challenging workout can increase blood flow and help your athlete feel less sore the next day.

Need Help Stretching? StretchSpot Can Help!

We love working with young athletes to help them stretch better to maximize their athletic performance. At StretchSpot, we help athletes in all kinds of sports, including soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, and more.

Our sessions are as short as 20 minutes and can make a significant difference in your child’s athletic performance. If you’re a parent of young athletes in the South Bay area, we’d love to hear from you! You can learn more about the StretchSpot on our website, or schedule an appointment for your child.

How Does Flexibility Affect Your Health?

The Impact of Flexibility Training on Your Health

Most people associate flexibility with dancing, performance art, sports, or yoga. It’s considered more of a skill than a health necessity. In this respect, people would be mistaken.

Flexibility (also limberness) is more than the ability to touch your toes and bend or contort your body in ways that most people cannot achieve. It is a component of physical fitness and an indication of a body’s range of movement. The more flexible you are, the more you can do.

While some people are born naturally limber, many have to work harder to condition their musculoskeletal systems to become more flexible. If you consider yourself as one of the latter, you’ll have much to gain if you work on improving your flexibility.

Why is Flexibility Important?

Exercises that make your body more limber also improve your posture, mobility, and muscle coordination. They strengthen your core, back, and neck muscles, too.

This is because stretching is a major part of flexibility training. Stretching exercises target muscle groups, flexing and stretching them to increase their elasticity and improve their form. These exercises also condition the joints, ligaments, and tendons to be stronger and allow a wider range of motion and better control of the bones and muscles.

The musculoskeletal improvements that develop when you do flexibility exercises on the regular can give you the following health benefits:

Better Posture

When you sit on a desk for hours at a time and working on your laptop, your torso may gradually give in to gravity and become increasingly curved. Often, you don’t even notice how much you’ve slumped forward towards your computer screen until you get a crick in your neck or your back starts feeling sore.

Your muscles shorten when you are in a slumped, hunch-backed position for extended periods. It causes the tight, sore sensation in the waist and pelvic area when you rise after sitting with a curved back for hours. Doing short, flexibility exercises in-between can help alleviate the pain and correct your posture the next time you sit back down.

Additionally, sports trainers say that flexibility training can improve the body’s overall shape. It’s what contributes to many athletes’ lean and toned figures.     

Reduced Risk of Certain Ailments and Diseases

It may not register immediately, but bad posture can lead to a host of health problems. Harvard Medical School cites the following as key examples of posture-related problems:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Heartburn
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Curved spine

Posture can also impact your mood and jaw alignment, according to Harvard.

Low Risk of Injuries

A stronger and more flexible body is more capable of withstanding physical stress. This is one of the reasons why contact sports athletes incorporate stretching into their daily exercises and pre-game training programs.

Stretching expands the muscle fibers and makes them more pliable, stronger, and responsive to fight-and-flight scenarios. It also strengthens the connective tissue that supports the muscles and internal organs. Hence, people who are flexible because of regular training have a low risk of obtaining physical injuries.

Less incidence of back pain

Chronic lower back pain is often caused by a tightness of the muscles (poor posture being one of its leading causes). Stretching is one of the most recommended therapies that address chronic pain. It can both prevent and heal an existing injury. Recall, too, that the circumstances leading to a person’s heightened flexibility — habitual exercise and training of targeted muscle groups — lower the risk for injuries that may cause chronic pain.

The work that you put into increasing your flexibility can have a positive impact on your health. The outcomes discussed above are worth the effort. Work with an experienced fitness trainer so that you’re sure you’re doing the correct flexibility exercises.

Lockdown Live Series, Day 13