While it is often overlooked, the key to a good and effective workout is seemingly the warm-up and cool-down portions. While children are often eager to get out into the field and begin running around, it is important that they participate in a proper warm-up exercise to prepare their bodies for the physical demands of the exercise that is to come.
A warm-up increases one’s core body temperature, which prepares the muscles and joints for the physical demands of the exercise. It increases the flow of synovial fluid, which allows the joints to be able to move freely, improves the elasticity of soft tissues, which safely increases range of movement, and also increases the speed at which nerve impulses travel, which improves overall motor function. While improving performance, an effective warm-up also works to reduce the risk of injury by preventing delayed onset muscle soreness and the overstretching of muscle fibres.
A perfect warm-up for active children consists of an activity that raises muscle temperature and increases elasticity. Dynamic stretching combines what is needed to prepare the body for the physical activity to come and is thus the perfect type of warm-up. Dynamic stretching provides continuous movement to gradually increase one’s rate of breathing, heart rate, and the efficiency of the energy-producing systems, in addition to mobilizing the muscles through a full range of motion.
To get your child in the habit of warming-up before any game or practice, you can participate with them. A good rule of thumb during a warm-up is to target the muscles that will be activated during the sport or activity. So, an easy at-home warm-up you can do with your young athlete to prepare them for a game of baseball in the backyard is arm circles while skipping, which is a form of dynamic stretching.