Should babies exercise?
Of course they should! Let me explain.
In my profession as a Chiropractor, I see people every day with dysfunctions in their movement patterns and stabilization that can be traced back to a non-ideal baby-development inthe first year of life.
We never have to teach babies to lift their legs, turn around, change the support from elbows to hands, sit up and finally stand up and walk. It all happens automatically and at about the same age for every healthy baby. The development program for a baby is hard-wired in the brain and gets triggered off by the baby’s emotional needs of looking, feeding and moving. It all happens as an automatic chain-reaction and follows the same sequence for all healthy babies. One position’s pressure on specific support zones and the development of adequate stabilizing forces triggers the next functional pattern off.
Sometimes a developmental programwith its stabilization patterns does not get properly activated. This non-ideal stabilization gets incorporated as a dysfunction into all future stabilization programs as the child develops and will affect their quality of movement and stabilization.
Muscle pull from stabilization, and loading of joints from support functions, affects the shape and functions of bones and joints. A baby putting its foot in the mouth at approximately 7 months of age is important for normal development of the hip-joint to occur. Good stabilization patterns of the trunk have to be developed around 4.5 months before the baby starts to turn and move arms and legs across the body.
Below are two examples of the same perfect sagittal stabilization (core stabilization).
Typical signs of non-ideal baby development in an adult can include: a short chest, flaring lower ribs with insufficient diaphragm activity and weak oblique chains of the abdominal wall, diastasis, non-ideal scapular position and weakness of scapular stabilization, internally rotated hips.
Valgus deformity (knock knees) of the knee and pronation of the ankle and foot, are not knee and ankle problems to start with. Along the same track we can clearly state that flat feet are not due to an orthotics deficiency!
The point I am making is that having knowledge of the normal movement and stabilization patterns of a healthy baby would make it easier to ensure good development of functional stability.
Practice makes perfect – and permanent
By baby training I mean that we should let the baby have enough time in each position to establish perfect stabilization patterns. The quality of the stabilization is the key to ideal development. It is very important not to put a baby into a position it cannot achieve itself. Parents are well-meaningly sitting children up or pulling them up into a standing position too early. Sitting or standing before the proper stabilization has been achieved in earlier position will not help the baby - on the contrary it will create dysfunctional stabilizations. The entire functional developmental process is programmed into the baby’s brain and all we have to do is follow the blue-print and make sure no steps are being skipped. Babies need lots of floor time both on their stomach and back to develop good patterns. Time spent playing with the baby on the floor is time well spent.
Rehab and sports performance
Coming from a rehabilitation and sports performance angle I would make sure that a child went through each fundamental step properly. For example we can encourage babies to lift their legs up and we can make sure they are turning both ways at the right age. We all know the power of repetition. Why not let them practice the correct patterns over and over again? The key is not to make them do things they are not ready for, but instead groove the good patterns they are using in a playful way. Avoid baby carriersand other movement limiting devices as much as possible, and do not put the baby in any form of artificial standing or bouncing equipment.
Knowing what I know after spending 10 years using DNS it is easy to see why prehab (corrective exercises) and sports performance really starts in the first year of life. DNS uses Developmental Kinesiology as reference for ideal stabilization patterns. Babies can be examined and if stabilization patterns are not ideal the patterns can be activated and babies exercised.
In adults, DNS uses positions for reflex stimulation and specific exercises that are almost identical to the baby positions since the brain is pre-programmed for good activation in those positions. We are basically triggering off the normal baby patterns again. The individual may not be able to use the correct stabilization voluntarily but the program is stored in the brain ready to be activated.
By creating perfect patterns in a baby we don’t have to spend a massive amount of time trying to correct them later in life when the patterns are fixed and bone and joint deformity might exist. Creating a perfect athlete can startvery early.
There is something to be said for baby-training!
For information about DNS and Developmental Kinesiology see: www.rehabps.com