Parents of children with movement difficulties are often told by doctors and physiotherapists that their child has “weak core muscles” and are told to let their child exercise to strengthen those muscles. Just as a tree needs a strong trunk to be able to hold its branches up and withstand elements in its environment, a child requires a strong core to participate in life’s daily activities efficiently. Essentially, core strength or postural control, is both the anchor and launching pad for everything that we do. If a child does not have a strong core, it will affect their neck position, upper back, lower back and lower limb position.
What are core muscles?
The term “core” muscles refers to the trunk muscles that work to hold trunk erect and steady the upper and lower limbs move. The core muscles include the deep spinal extensor muscles as well as the transverse and diagonal abdominal muscles. The neck muscles also play an important role in maintaining a steady and stable head posture. The muscles need to work together in a coordinated manner to keep the head and trunk steady when moving the arms and legs.
Importance of core muscle strength in infants
With no postural control, motor movements are impossible. Postural control is the foundation where other skills are developed. Posture must be stable to allow movements of the extremities such as arms and legs, enabling the baby to complete complex activities such as looking left and right, forward reaching and rolling back and forth. It is important for baby to get as much tummy time as possible, as this is where they begin to develop and strengthen their core and postural muscles. They are then expected to begin to reach for items, developing their core muscles helps them to use their arms and hands to reach and grasp. The next step of development is beginning to roll from their back to their stomach, using those core and postural muscles to assist. They then need to use those muscles to sit independently and hold their weight and heads against gravity, stabilising those muscles.
Posture is important for participation in all aspect of life, like development of child’s attention, focus, respiration and movement patterns, it is essential to be developed. New parents can take advantage of incidental tummy time in holding your baby on your forearm when carrying, having your baby rest on your chest rather than in the cot or carrier
What can be done to improve core muscle strength and stability?
- Perform activities in tummy time position
- Perform activities in two-point kneeling and half kneeling position
- Crawling and creeping
- Reach and sit up
- Collect object from the floor in kneeling or squatting position
- Superman position on the gym ball
- Crawling through tunnel
- Climbing ladder
- Wheelbarrow walking
- Play animal walk such as crabs, frogs, bear and kangaroo
- Elbow plank
- Encourage the child to try new equipment at the playground such as swings, climbing bar, monkey bar, slides and poles.
When beginning core strengthening exercise/activities, start with just a few at time; find some that your child loves to engage in. As time progresses, you should see your child starting to develop self-confidence and endurance. At this point, you can begin adding new exercises.
Here in Healthworks, our physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment for your child and design a comprehensive exercise based on his/her abilities. If there are any queries regarding this article, feel free to contact us at 018-9828539/ 03-6211 7533 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org