It is no secret that children love to move! As adults, sometimes we forget that natural movements we do as children such as crawling, squatting, balancing and getting up off the floor are greatly beneficial to our physical health.
This blog post will outline how simple exercises can help keep your joints young and feeling good!
Along with strengthening the trunk, shoulders and hand muscles, crawling is one of the earliest forms of ‘core strengthening’. When we spend time on our hands and knees, we are using multiple areas of the body for stabilisation- the trunk, shoulder girdle, hips and spine. Also, the mechanics of crawling stimulate different areas of the brain, which is another reason for keeping natural movements a part of our daily routine.
Exercise: Start on hands and knees, try gentle weight shifting from one hand to the other, then progress to lifting one arm, then leg, and then you might be ready for crawling! If you haven’t been much of a crawler lately, it may take some time to build up strength in all the joints for crawling.
The joints in our bodies move, and our muscles create movement, with strength and power. Our joints contain cartilage, a rubber-like padding that covers and protects the ends of long bones at the joints. This cartilage contains 65-80% water. The only way the joints stay healthy and lubricated is through movement, especially on-off compression to allow the water to squeeze out of the cartilage into the joint, so that is doesn’t dry out and become stiff.
This is why squatting is so important – it takes the body through a range of movement, from the top of the neck, to the bottom of the foot! And finally, to full bending, resulting in compression of the joints in the hips, knees, ankles.
Exercise: Start with practicing a small squat over a chair; move toward the chair as if to sit, but don’t actually sit, and then rise up again. Start slow, with small movements. Again, this exercise is best viewed by a physiotherapist to start, to make sure it is done correctly.
Have you walked along the edge of a curb, or along a log recently?
The act of balancing relies on input from the visual (eyes), vestibular (inner ear), proprioception (feedback from our joints to our brain) from sensory organs throughout the body and central processing (the brain and spinal cord). There is a lot going on to keep you from falling off that log!
Exercise: Start with standing on one foot, then the other. Then try with eyes closed, close to a wall or with light touch on a counter to start. Then practice walking a narrow line, edge of a curb etc.
4) Getting Up Off The Floor
Many people have trouble getting up off the floor as they age because their joints get stiff. That’s why this exercise is key; it can help release some of that tension if practiced regularly.
Exercise: Using a combination of the three movements discussed earlier, start on all fours in a crawling position, then rise up to kneel. Balance on one foot to push up, rise up and eventually stand.
Practicing functional, natural movements as a regular part of an exercise or warm-up to exercise routine will keep the joints moving! Be sure to check-in with your local physiotherapist to ensure that you are moving correctly.
About Shannon Christmas
Shannon Christmas is a CAMPT-Certified physiotherapist in Nelson BC. She includes natural movements in her life while chasing her 3 children. She also enjoys mountain biking, running and most outdoor activities. You can find out more about her at www.kootenayhealth.com