Running before we can walk: Developmental Stages.
Column #58, 6th December 2008
A fortnight ago we discussed the holistic merits of walking as an activity. On top of the well known cardiovascular benefits, we discussed its relationship with movement, rhythm, breathing, eyesight, electromagnetic interaction and the psycho-emotional.
For many, walking is the main action we use to get from a to b. It is extremely important, but often seems to be taken for granted. It is typically overlooked when implementing training programs and many find ways to avoid it at all costs.
Evolution and Walking
Much (if not all) of human function (movement, circulation, digestion etc) has evolved in tandem with the ability to walk. Consequently, if our movement reduces so does the efficiency of our systems. The problem is that if we are sedentary in our job or lifestyle the body may ‘stagnate’. There is no space for the organs to operate freely and no rhythm to create flow and energy and stimulate growth. In this way Movement is our Medicine.
But how and when did we learn to do this fundamental movement and should we be interested in it now? I assume we can’t remember our first steps, but there are ideal stages that we go through to learn the art of walking. Here is some general information on them for your interest:
- Naval Radiation; movement inside the womb.
- Spinal; various patterns that involve inchworm like movements.
- Homologous; movement like a frog pushing with both feet at the same time.
- Homolateral (reptilian); like a salamander moving with same side arms and legs.
- Mammalian; crawling with opposite arms and legs.
- Brachiation; use of arms, squatting and lunging in order to get upright.
- Neocortical; normal walking gait.
Have we Perfected the Art?
The question we need to ask is ‘how well have we developed the ability to walk?’ If we all did a movement screen or gait analysis of our walking pattern now, what would we find? Have you already been told that you are flat-footed or over-pronate? Health and performance levels may suffer if we are unable to deal with forces created by walking or running and consequently we can develop aches, pains and injuries anywhere in the body.
Skipping a Stage
Is it possible to miss a stage of this perfectly-designed movement development? Or could we even regress backwards, due to injury, surgery, illness, poor strength training or occupational demands? It is in fact very possible that the body would benefit from re-programming certain movement patterns in order to build on them for enhanced movement skills.
I see this very often with clients and it can manifest itself in pain and restricted movement. The reasons for skipping developmental stages as an infant could be anything from restrictive playpens, hard floors that discourage movement, premature use of baby walkers and jumpers and even structural aspects following the physical demands of birth.
The statement ‘have we tried to run before we can walk’ has real meaning and impact on your ability to function efficiently and happily. We rarely consider this aspect when simply aiming to improve our fitness, train for a sporting event or just enhance our health, but if we are serious about real results, your exercise coach should acknowledge the importance of your movement development.