Dr. Dan Michael
Dr. Dan Michael

Many adults have admittedly been more sedentary in the last 12 months than ever before in their lives, but what about kids?

It is true, over the pandemic, children have had similar routines to adults with virtual classes, reduced play dates and fewer opportunities to be active.

We all recognize that keeping kids active was a challenge before a global pandemic; now there is an added obstacle of returning our children to a healthy level of activity without causing more harm than good.

Rushing our children back into activity can cause overuse injuries and even structural damage.

Overuse injuries affect children similarly to adults, and a sudden increase or a sudden change in activity can cause an unwanted stress or strain that is only resolved with forced rest and recovery for days, weeks or even months.

Here are some helpful ways to think about returning your child to an active life in a safe way.

Tip 1: Know when they are growing.

Peak height velocity is the point at which the child is growing at their fastest rate and is often described by parents as a “growth spurt” and increases the child’s risk of injury significantly.

By tracking your child’s height every week, or biweekly, you can see when they are starting to grow significantly in a short time and intervene with activity modification.

One of the most valuable interventions that you can make is daily stretching. Stretching will aid the muscles, tendons and ligaments in adapting to rapid growth of the skeletal system as it lengthens and can go a long way in preventing muscular injuries in rapidly growing children who are active in sport.

Tip 2: Track their activity.

Activity trackers like Garmin, Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc., can be helpful for kids, too. By charting how active they are, you can begin to see trends, and generally sharp increases in activity should be followed by a short period of recovery on a weekly basis of monitoring.

For example, if your child is accustomed to playing sports with their friends or running around the neighborhood, and then soccer season starts, you may want to impose some restrictions to progress their activity level at a slower rate if they are growing faster than usual.

Generally, there are no high-quality absolute recommendations that fit all children, but a change of 10 to 15 percent in activity volume and/or intensity is generally well tolerated by most humans.

While most children tolerate far higher percentages week to week, a sudden increase that is maintained for more than a week or two can put the child at higher risk.

Tip 3: Support their activity with good nutrition.

If you are reading this, you probably reside or spend a significant amount of your time in the Pacific Northwest where the sun shines only part time, and where the rain fall keeps people indoors for most of the year.

Lack of sun exposure causes vitamin D deficiency, and most experts will recommend that people who live along this latitude of the world supplement vitamin D3 as an essential vitamin (“essential” means our bodies cannot make this vitamin and an external source is required).

Vitamin D3 is the active form of vitamin D and is important for proper bone health and immune function, which is essential for growing and active children. A simple pediatric multivitamin would provide some level of D3, as well as other essential nutrients that can supplement a less than optimal diet.

 

— Dr. Dan Michael is a chiropractic physician at NW Sports Rehab, 1929 43rd Ave. E., in Madison Park. Call 206-328-5466 for more information.