Sunday, October 10, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Balance Development in Children is Learned

Developing balance and coordination begins early in life. We learn to hold our heads up, crawl and then eventually walk, often precariously at first. We fall a lot initially and then progress towards running, playing, jumping, swinging and other activities that help our brains to develop balance. This is why we adults have fond childhood memories of walking across logs or balance beams, spinning, swinging and balance activities that help to stimulate our vestibular system (balance centers of the brain).

I can’t stress enough how important it is for children to stimulate their brain’s balance centers on a regular basis. Having a good brain is more than academic performance. Developing a good balance center reduces the likelihood of developing vestibular problems later in life including balance problems, learning disabilities, vertigo, dizziness, lack of coordination and injuries.

Children’s brains are nurtured by physical movement; this is why gentle rocking is calming to infants. A child’s vestibular system is properly formed by the feedback it receives from running, swinging, jumping, muscle contraction, etc.

Children should not be sedentary, staring at an LCD screen for hours at a time. If TV and video game activities are performed more than standard physical activities it can reduce the normal vestibular development needed to maneuver in Earth’s gravitational field throughout life.

The brain and vestibular system receive input from changes in muscle tone, movements of the body, head and eyes. Serious developmental and coordinative problems can develop if these centers are not regularly activated. It’s important for children to develop proprioception -- the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other. Often called the “sixth sense” proprioception is vital to good balance.

Modalities such as Chiropractic, Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, Craniosacral Therapy, Yoga, and other body-centered therapies can help to improve proprioception and balance. Nothing, however, can solely replace good old fashioned movement and physical activity. Balance and prevention of balance related problems, along with coordination are learned activities developed by our interaction with our environment.