December brought the Health and Nutrition Unit to a close for the WV Leaders in Action students, but not before some final lessons about the body’s need for a well-rounded approach to fitness. Not only does health and fitness include cardio and strength activities, but stretching and flexibility activities as well. They’re not just for gymnasts and cheerleaders, martial artists or dancers. Stretching is how a person maintains normal flexibility throughout life.
A person may not be able to function normally if a joint lacks normal movement. The ability to move a joint through an adequate range of movement (ROM) is important for daily activities in general. Tightness or loss of ROM happens quite readily in our culture with much of our education and work happening in the sitting position at a desk. The major areas of our hamstrings, hip-flexors, back, and neck are most commonly affected. With losses of ROM, simple activities such as walking, biking, and playing can be restricted, more difficult, or even just less enjoyable. As a point of remedy and wellness, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.1
So with all of this in mind, of course we headed outside with our students to learn some simple and easy active and static stretches to help them maintain and improve their capacity and ability to play and enjoy life. How much they take care of their bodies is a decision that our students will have to make. But how might their health affect their education, I wondered? After a bit a research, I came across this article2 which gives input into that very question. Although complex, the answer is in short… of course their educational experience is impacted by their health.
As the semester came to a close, I wondered if there’s a larger lesson embedded in all of this as well. Maintaining physical flexibility can be helpful to enjoy life and potentially take on new types of movements and activities more readily. Can this be a metaphor for other aspects of who we are? Mental flexibility can help us to think in new ways, adapt to different situations, or understand new concepts. Emotional flexibility can help us cope with a variety of experiences or be less judgmental toward our peers. These skills can be important aspects on the path towards post-secondary education success.
So here’s to a brand new start filled with resolutions of all kinds that help us to loosen up in many ways. Wishing you, and all of our students, a happy and healthy new year.
(Josh Evans is the Program Assistant for FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center in WV)