It is no exaggeration to say that participation in sports sets children up for a lifetime of success. In addition to the physical benefits of regular exercise -- reduced risk of obesity, improved coordination, and healthy, strong bones and muscles -- playing a sport teaches children the value of teamwork, perseverance, and communication. These are lessons that will serve them well as they grow into adulthood.
Staying in peak condition during the off-season, however, can be challenging. That's why we've compiled this list of great warm up exercises for kids to help them stay flexible, agile, and strong all year round!
Put together an exercise routine for your young athletes with some of the following activities. Make sure to vary the warm ups, so kids don't get bored doing the same thing over and over.
This is a deceptive exercise; it looks easy, but can really get your heart rate pumping and stretch your muscles. To do an inchworm, start in a standing position. Bend at the waist and place your palms flat on the floor in front of your feet. It's OK if you have to bend your knees.
Now, walk your hands out in front of you, lowering your body, until you've landed in a pushup position. Hold for a few moments, then walk your feet forward until you are once again bent at the waist with hands and feet on the ground.
If space permits, continue inch-worming along. If you're exercising in a tight space, reverse the entire process, backing up first with your feet and then with your hands.
Here's an exercise that will get kids giggling and having fun while also loosening and warming up their muscles. A coach or parent can start off as the leader, with all the athletes lined up behind them. They make their way around the field or gymnasium, doing different physical movements, that children will then copy.
In addition to walking, running, and skipping, the leader can do lunges or grapevines, kick their foot as high as possible on each step, tiptoe, run backward, do arm circles or overhead stretches, stop to do a squat, leap or jump, and so on. To keep it fun, throw in an occasional bunny hop or goofy walk, or add sound effects!
Follow the Leader can also be played in a stationary fashion. Form a big circle, and make sure everyone can see the "leader" as she or he performs various stretches or motions.
Good old-fashioned jumping jacks are a perfect full-body warm up. They can be done slowly at first, with the pace increasing as the athletes get more limber. If you are coaching kids who are a bit older, or who can handle more vigorous warmups, try burpees.
For a burpee, begin standing. Moving quickly, squat down and place your hands on the floor. Jump your legs out behind you, landing in a pushup position. Do one pushup. Jump your lower body forward again, landing in a squat. Thrust your body upward into a jumping jack, bringing your hands above your head for a clap.
For this warm up, you'll need a track. If you're indoors, set one up using cones or jump ropes. Next, divide the kids into two equal groups and have them begin the exercise at opposite sides of the track.
The object is for any person in each group to tag someone in the opposite group. This exercise is great for teaching teamwork. Participants who are lagging behind and in danger of being tagged should receive lots of positive encouragement from their teammates.
The ancient practice of yoga is a fantastic way to supplement young athletes' workouts with mindful movement. Sun salutations, which are a specific set of yoga poses performed in a certain order, also make a super warm up (or cool down), as they involve the entire body but are fairly gentle.
If you coach an athletic team filled with horse-crazy kids, try this fun warm up exercise. Call out "walk," "trot," or "gallop" to signal the participants to increase their speed as they move around the field or gym.
You can even incorporate low hurdles (an orange cone turned on its side works well for this) so that your horses can practice their steeplechase jumps. Be prepared for lots of neighing and lots of laughs!
Kids love the challenge provided by the classic game of Simon Says, so why not play an exercise-themed variation? "Simon" can tell the kids to reach their arms up to the sky, touch their toes, do a jumping jack, march in place, do a sit-up... the possibilities are unlimited.
Naturally, you'll want to throw in the occasional command that isn't prefaced by "Simon Says..." to keep the kids on their toes!
Especially if the kids' sport is one that requires quick and nimble feet and/or precise timing, jumping rope double-dutch style is a great way to get moving! Set up two stations, if possible, so that kids don't wait too long (and cool down) between turns. (Alternately, instruct anyone who is waiting in line to jog in place, do squats or jumping jacks, or otherwise keep their bodies moving.)
Have adults act as the rope turners, so that every kid gets a chance to jump. Or simply have the kids jump rope individually as their warm-up activity.
Everyone loves to shake their groove thing, and kids are no exception. Teach everyone the steps to some classic dances like the Charleston, the Mashed Potato, the Macarena, or the Electric Slide. Music will help get everyone in the mood, and chances are the athletes will break a sweat without even realizing it.
Individuals or smaller groups could also play a dancing video game, like Dance Dance Revolution, as a fun warm up.
As you can see, many of the best warm up exercises for kids are fun activities they'll look forward to doing. These exercises can help young athletes stay limber during the off-season, but more importantly, they'll also show kids that moving their bodies can be an absolute blast.
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