Nearly six years ago a doctor discovered that I have a degenerative lower back issue. This came after being practically immobilized for two weeks. Months of physical therapy followed and an at-home stretching regiment was introduced straightaway, but before long I’d abandoned it with a flurry of frivolous excuses. Unfortunately, stretching had never been a part of my daily routine and without developing the habit early in life, it was easily put on the back burner, despite my sore body craving such activity.
If we start talking to our children early on about the importance of good habits and stretching exercises to keep their bodies limber, they may have a better chance than I did of staying physically fit, healthy and productive for their entire adult lives. To that end, I am more than happy to be your crash test dummy of sorts, a shining example in reverse!
While my story started 6 years ago, the true inspiration for this family stretching exercise activity came from professional quarterback Carson Palmer and his son Fletch. Last season, Palmer hurt his knee and was out for the remainder of the season and at just about the same time, Fletch was also injured severely and required leg surgery. Both needed extensive rehab and physical therapy, so they began doing their PT and stretching exercises together as a way of encouraging and motivating each other every day. Both Carson and Fletch have since made full recoveries and they’ve continued their habit of daily stretching togetherness — even Fletch’s two sisters get in on the act, making it a true family affair!
I had the opportunity to talk to Carson recently about his life at home with his kids as part of Dove Men+Care’s #RealStrength Highlight Reels video shoot. I watched as a dad and son stretched together, and I came back home from Arizona inspired to get down on the carpeted floor with my kids more often to make sure I’m able to keep up with them for longer and so that they don’t run into the same problems as their old man.
Here are a couple of simple stretches I have in common with a Heisman Trophy winner and his young son, stretches you and your kids can learn and start doing at home to build the foundation of long-term mobility and strength in their muscles and joints.
*Note: before doing any new activity that your body may not be accustomed to, it is wise to consult your physician.
What You’ll Need
- Clean, flat surface
- Comfortable clothing
- Stretching partner to encourage and motivate
How To Start Stretching With Your Kids
I was told that I needed to stretch my hamstrings and lower back to maintain peak flexibility and to avoid stiffness and discomfort in those areas as I get older. One of my favorite stretches assigned to me is the very one Carson and Fletch are doing in the top photo above.
Here’s how to perform this simple hamstring stretch:
- Have your child lie down on their side, as pencil-straight as possible.
- Instruct them to slowly raise their top leg up until their foot is about shoulder high (meaning, not quite as high as Fletch’s above!) all while flexing their toes towards their head, thus stretching their calves and hamstrings.
- Ask them to hold their leg up there for a beat.
- Repeat (get them started with 5 or 10 reps on each leg).
Here’s another hamstring stretch my girls and I enjoy doing together on the family room floor, with a little assistance from a certain orange tabby cat:
- Lie down on your back.
- Raise one leg in a V shape with that foot firmly on the ground.
- Lift the other leg up about 6 inches off the ground with toes flexed towards your head.
- Hold it for a beat and lower it back to the ground.
- Repeat for 5-10 reps and switch legs.
Hopefully, over time, you and your kids will see these stretches as just a normal part of the day, like brushing teeth, making beds and getting dressed for school, and that the good habits developed in their youth will carry them forward into a more flexible, strong and healthy future.