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Core is Key: Improving Core Strength in Kids

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

A tree is only as strong as its center. A house is as stable as its foundation. Humans are no different. The body we use to navigate the world uses the many receptors to receive and process the barrage of sensory input throughout the day, the hour, the minute. The body responds to this input in some sort of physical way to maybe shift weight, take a breath, pay attention, catch a ball, scratch an itch, smell a bagel, tap a foot to the muzak in the elevator. No matter what the input is, the output is movement. Always. There is an emotional response as well but even this comes with moving the body. A deep breath, tightening of the shoulders, a big happy grin, a turn of the head, a shift of the eyes. All these movements stem from the core. The root. The base. The origin. All the little muscles that make up the axial skeleton (all along your spine and pelvic floor) are the first to activate when I engage any trunk, head, or neck movement. Or if I have to move weight with an arm or a leg. Core strength is essential for fluid, coordinated, functional movement. But it goes deeper than that. One needs core to keep the muscles around the root of your body to keep posture. Posture is needed to keep the body still long enough for the brain to attend. And the brain needs to attend long enough to something in order to interact and learn from what is being attended to. In other words, a strong core helps with attention and focus. Having a solid base allows for more fluid movements, use of less energy, more time spent on the activity at hand rather than keeping the body in alignment. Core is key!

This is a common trait I see when working with kids struggling with attention, inhibition, and motor control. So strengthening the core is a pillar of my work. So how do you get kids to engage their core? Well, if they like to work out then all you have to do is Google "core workout" and you're all set. But most kids just like to move and play so work with what you've got. Crawling over unstable surfaces is a terrific way to engage the core. Over couch cushions, under chairs, back over the laundry pile. Making sure they are putting weight on their hands and not sitting on their feet. Straddling something like a bolster swing, a horse, the couch arm, or a horsey ride around the living room. Something where they have to twist and rotate and shift to keep balance without using their legs and feet for support. Sitting criss cross on an upside down BOSU ball, a huge pillow, bean bag, whatever you've got that is unstable. Swimming, gymnastics, wrestling, jujitsu, horseback riding, rock climbing, laying on your stomach on a scooter board and holding to a rope for dear life while you pull them across the drive way (please wear a helmet for most of these)!

There are a million ideas you can come up with but the point to take home is that if your kid is struggling in school, has sensory difficulties, is easily fatigued, has melt downs, or something is there you can't quite put your finger on but it's becoming increasingly more of an issue, then have a look at how your kiddo is moving. Do they slouch when they sit, do they lean against stuff all the time, do they hardly sit still at all, are they choppy in their movements? Doing games and activities where you build up core could help fill in some of those struggles and remove some of the anxiety in every day tasks. As kids become stronger and move better kids do more. The more kids do then the more kids do. The roots of the tree are solid so the trunk of the tree can bend to the wind to grow strong limbs on which to grow healthy, beautiful leaves with which to nourish, grow, and enjoy the sunshine.

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