Smart Home: The Fitness Plan for Kids to Stay Safe & Injury Free!

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Constant running around, up and down the monkey bars, swimming in the pool and more, the days of summer are here.  We need to remember that children are humans; they require similar physical care that aging adults do. Warm ups, stretching, nutrition & hydration are equally important to an 8 year old as to a 38 year old.

Below ChicagoHealers.com practitioner Dr. Richard Ezgur, DC offers tips for parents to keep kids safe and injury free during summer sports and activities.

Warm Up – Like adults, children are also vulnerable to muscle pulls and joint sprains and strains. The most common causes of these injuries include inadequate warm-up time and stretching.  Before beginning the activity, encourage your child to take a few minutes to warm-up.

  • A good warm-up will imitate the actions that your body will undergo during your sport, but at a lesser intensity.  So for most kids, a brief walk or light jog will do the trick just fine.  In some cases, just parking the car farther away from the play ground or sporting field, to allow for a walk before play, may be an adequate warm up.
  • The main point to remember is to avoid having your child transition immediately from resting in bed or the car directly into strenuous activity.

Stretch – Stretching should be performed after, not before, activity.  The key to proper stretching is to remember that “less is more”.  Stretches should be gentle, relaxing and never painful.

  • You’ll want to hold a steady stretch for at least 20–30 seconds without bouncing.  Stretching too far or stretching for less than 20 seconds, or stretching before activity may do more harm than good.  In doing so, you may initiate a “stretch reflex” which actually causes the muscles to tighten up even more.  This may cause pain and physical damage to your muscle fibers, as well as scar tissue formation and decreased elasticity over time.
  • Toddlers won’t need to stretch after exercising, but it’s a good habit to develop by the teen years.

Nutrition and Hydration – Finally, proper nutrition is also important in preventing muscle injuries, cramping, and dehydration.  Many people are often concerned about vitamin and mineral intake, but the most common pitfall when exercising in the heat of the summer is dehydration caused by inadequate fluid intake.  You can avoid this by simply drinking enough water, which is at least 8-12 cups of water for an adult, plus an additional 1-2 cups for every hour of exercise.  This amount should be adjusted to the size of your child, although children will need a larger amount of water in proportion to their body weight, compared to adults.

  • All parents should be aware of the signs of dehydration, which include:

§         Thirst and/or dry mouth

§         Muscle weakness, fatigue or lethargy

§         Dizziness

§         Lightheadedness

§         Small amount of dark urine.

  • Keep in mind that your children must drink, even if they claim not to be thirsty. Unfortunately, the human thirst mechanism is not sensitive to the early stages of dehydration.  As a result, significant dehydration usually occurs before the sensation of thirst is recognized.

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