Why Movement MattersOctober 28, 2013
By Andrew Klein, Pediatric Occupational Therapist
The benefits of exercise are well known and often discussed in our society. Terms such as “cardio” and “endorphins” are very much a part of the English lexicon. Less discussed are the great benefits of any sort of movement and gross motor activity, especially in the development and continued nourishment of our minds and the minds of our children.
To begin with, the development of vision, and the development of visual-spatial processing, is highly dependent on movement. From a baby waving a hand in front of his or her face, to a child or adolescent judging the incoming speed of a soccer ball while running across a field, our visual skills depend upon our movement and the movement of objects around us. These skills have academic ramifications as well. Understanding the way in which objects move through space in time helps develop visual-spatial constructs, such as directional thinking (up, down, left, right) and spatial relations. These skills, in turn, can assist with academics tasks such as letter formation and mathematics.
Movement activities also have importance due to the sensory input that comes with them. Every time there is impact to the joints of the body, such as through walking, running, jumping, crawling, crashing, and “high fiving,” the body receives proprioceptive feedback. Proprioception is the body’s sense of where its parts are located in space, provided by sensory receptors in all of the body’s muscles and joints. It is one of the most important, but easily the least appreciated, of all the body’s senses. And, like cardiovascular exercise, proprioceptive input is associated with the release of our brain’s “feel-good” neurochemicals.
Movement is, of course, only one component of development and wellness. If genuinely concerned about your child’s development or sensory processing, consult your pediatrician. But, in general, try to find time for your kids, and for yourselves, to go out, go play, have fun… and get moving!
Andrew Klein is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and owner of PowerUp Kids, LLC. He can be reached at powerupkidsOT@gmail.com.