In today's technology and junk food-filled world, many parents worry that their kids will develop unhealthy lifestyle patterns. The mass availability of TV, video games, computers and junk food all help to facilitate an environment where far too many children live a primarily sedentary life.
The Active Healthy Kids Report Card states that in 2011, many children have adopted a “modern lifestyle”, which means that the majority of their spare time is spent idly and indoors. The same study states that children are sedentary 59 percent of the time between 3 and 6 pm. This is problematic because kids who are active between the hours of 3 and 6 take about 2,000 more steps per day then their non-active counterparts. Two-thousand steps is equivalent to walking an extra two kilometers a day.
According to the Healthy Kids Report Card, the after-school period is critical if you’re a parent worried about your children’s lack of activity. An after-school sport is a great option. Sporty children take an average of 1,600 extra steps per day, and the participation in sports at a young age correlates to being more active later in life.
Parents of extremely active children may have an alternative concern. Activity is fantastic, but parents whose kids are highly involved in a sport often worry that the intense training will lead to injury in the future. Although team sports are fantastic, they often involve repetition of one movement pattern, which can cause overuse injuries. I’ve included a few exercises below that strengthen the small, stabilizing muscles that are crucial for keeping those active kids injury-free.
If your child participates in sports that include throwing, get them to do deceleration rotator cuff work.
Deceleration Rotator Cuff Work
For this exercise, you need a stability ball and a small, weighted 1– 2lb medicine ball. If you don't have a medicine ball, a softball will do the trick. Lie on your stomach on a stability ball holding the weighted ball in your right hand. Place your arm out to the side at a 90-degree angle with your knuckles facing the ceiling. Drop the ball from your hand, and as the ball falls towards the floor rotate your arm (but keep the angle at your elbow 90 degrees) and catch the ball. Rotate your arm back to the starting position then repeat ten times. Switch and repeat on the opposite side.
If your child does jumping sports like basketball, get them to do terminal knee extensions. This exercise will work the inner-knee muscles. When the inner knee muscle is strong, it helps the knee cap track properly whenever the knee bends or when landing after performing a jump.
Terminal Knee Extension
For this exercise, you need a resistance band. Wrap the band around a stable pole and then tie a knot in the band so it becomes a loop. Step your right leg into the loop and place the band above the right knee. Stand perpendicular to the stable pole.
Step far enough away from the pole so you feel slight resistance from the band against your leg. Bend the right knee slightly. Fight the resistance of the band so that as you bend your knee, the knee cap tracks over your middle toes. To finish the exercise, straighten your leg and try to engage the muscles on the inside of your knee. These muscles will be hard to make work. Just keep practicing. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.
If your child does running sports, get them to do a standing band abduction. This will help strengthen the muscles on the outside of the hip which will help keep the athlete's pelvis and knees in proper alignment as they run.
Standing Band Abduction
For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. Step on the middle of the band and hold either end of the band with your hands. Stay as upright as possible as you press your left leg out to the side. Try not to press with your left foot or knee. Instead, use the left bum muscle to initiate pushing the band out to the side. Use the right bum muscle to support you. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.