When it comes to fitness sometimes we need to take a step back (or baby step for that matter) in order to move forward. We are always amazed by our children’s energy, perfect posture, flexibility, endurance and playfulness. We attribute these qualities to youth but is it really the aging process that causes us to slow down or is it because we slow down and as the old adage goes, “if you don’t use it you lose it”.
Could emulating our children really lead to gains in health and fitness?
Here are 5 ways you can be more like a baby to improve your fitness:
Crawling is a fundamental stepping stone in an infant’s motor development. Crawling is a great exercise for adults too and there are so many different ways to crawl! Try incorporating some of these into your next workout for 25-50 meters each (forwards and backwards):
- Bear Crawl
- Army Crawl
- Lizard Walk (or sideways plank walk)
- Turtle Crawl
- Crab Crawl/walk
- Gorilla Crawl
2. Tummy Time:
Pediatricians can’t emphasis enough the importance of “Tummy time” for helping infants to develop neck and upper trunk strength. But what about for youth and adults? We spend a majority of our days in a forward leaning position: hunched over our desk staring at a computer screen or handheld device, driving, even eating meals!
This recs havoc on our posture and causes all types of aches and pains. We could all benefit from a little more tummy time for a stronger back, neck and core. Try spending at least 10 minutes doing exercises on your stomach a day: Supermans, planks, swimmers, etc.
3. Sitting up tall:
My 1.5 year old has perfect posture. He can sit for hours, legs out, back perfectly straight with no effort at all. Sitting up tall isn’t all about posture. It is about having a good balance of core strength and hip/hamstring flexibility. Since a majority of adults are sitting most of their waking hours it’s no wonder we have tight hip, leg and back muscles.
- Walk around for 5 minutes of every hour (kids can’t sit still for more than an hour straight so why should you?)
- Do the posture release pose
- When sitting at your desk or staring at your phone lift your chest and bring your device to eye level
- After every workout try to sit on the ground with your legs crossed for 1 minute with perfect posture and then with your legs straight for 1 minute. It’s harder than you think!
Most children learn to walk barefoot and relish any opportunity to kick off their shoes and run barefoot through the grass or sand. As adults, we rarely go barefoot, sometimes even in our own homes.
By wearing shoes all of the time several things happen:
- The padding dampens the feet’s ability to “feel the ground”, thus we lose some of that crucial biofeedback and proprioception
- Our feet grow weaker, especially with very supportive shoes or insoles as the muscles in our feet and ankles no longer have to do any work to maintain a healthy arch or stabilize the feet on uneven surfaces.
- Causes a different foot-strike pattern when running and tends to force the foot to land on the heel vs ball of the foot causing more impact upon ground contact (more damage to the joints!)
So kick off those shoes! Incorporate some barefoot running into your training regime. Start your run or workout on an open field and do a couple of barefoot laps and exercises like calf raises and toe raises before you start. Do this again after your run as a cool down and stretch barefoot. This will increase your foot and ankle strength, improve your balance, running form and even your speed!
5. Let’s play!
Babies and kids love to play. In fact, you could say that is their main purpose in life. Numerous studies attribute the importance of play in a child’s development for self-esteem, confidence, socialization and leadership skills. Not to mention the impact play has on health, wellbeing and most notably happiness!
Us adults could all take a cue from our kids and incorporate more play into our lives, with our without our kids.
“The opposite of work is not play, it is depression”
Here are some great resources and ideas on how to incorporate more play into your life, with or without your kids!