A good warm-up before vigorous exercise can help prevent injury, says Abigail Allen, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. For the greatest benefit, kids should combine movements that raise their heart rate and stretch their muscles.
Before your young athlete takes the field, help her get her body ready with a proper warm-up. This all-sport routine, designed by Dr. Allen, starts with a fun way for kids to loosen their muscles and get their heart rate up and ends with stretches for the calves and ankles, areas particularly prone to injury in growing bodies.
Using chalk or fitness cones, mark off a distance of about 20 feet. Call out the following movements and have your child do each one for the length of the marked-off space: walk, skip, walk while waving arms in the air from side to side; skip while waving arms; jump and land with bent knees. (If she plays soccer, you might also have her dribble the ball, throw it, and retrieve it.) After five or six minutes of movements, she can go on to these simple stretches.
Have your child extend her arms and place her palms against a wall or similar upright support.
Calf stretch: Have her place one foot near the wall, then extend her other leg back, foot flat, until she feels a stretch in her calf.
Ankle stretch: Have her place one leg about a foot behind the other, then bend both knees slightly until she feels a stretch in her ankle.
She should hold each stretch for 30 seconds on each leg, then repeat once or twice.
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun