At What Age Do We Develop Movement Dysfunction?

23428703034_0aa9eae278_oThe next time you’re around a toddler, watch them move. They squat with perfect mechanics and can hang out in the bottom position all day. When they pick toys off the floor their backs are flat and their hamstrings and glutes are loaded. Their movement is effortless and graceful.

My ninth graders on the other hand, move inefficiently with poor mechanics and a lack of body awareness. These guys are athletes; they’re more active than most kids their age, but they still have trouble performing basic functional movements like squatting and deadlifting.

I figure there are many contributing factors to their poor movement, the three biggest being puberty, sitting all day at school and at home, and today’s technology putting their bodies is awful positions for prolonged periods of time.

This lack of quality in movement at such a young age puzzled me. I was curious about when a child’s pure mobility begins to break down. As an experiment last week, I asked my eight-year-old super-athlete of a nephew to squat and pick up a shoe box for me. His squat was flawless, but his lumbar spine was curled when he picked up the box.

I was surprised by this. I know it’s just one kid, but let’s just say for arguments sake that this is the norm: kid’s movement begins to break down at the age of eight. Then what will their movement look like at 18, 30, or 45? Not good.

I mean, I didn’t stare at a computer or phone all day when I was a kid. I learned how to type on typewriter for crying out loud. I was highly active and played sports and games outside all the time. Yet, because I didn’t properly care for myself as a youth, my adult life has been plagued by poor mobility in the most crucial areas for functional movement.

The thought of this is disturbing. I picture a population of Quasimodo-like hunchbacks snap chatting and roasting each other (ask a high schooler about the app) on their phones who can’t perform fundamental movements.

Not all hope is lost though. This scary future is preventable, and some damage is reversible. It will take good old fashioned hard work, but this makes the victory even sweeter. I stress to my young athletes that mobilizing now is crucial, and I give them mobility work to do on their own.

Here are some ideas you can use yourself or share with the kids in your life:

Get up every 20 minutes and move.
Hold your phone or tablet at eye level with a neutral neck position.
Use a standup desk for at least part of your day.
Sit in the bottom of your squat for a few minutes every day.
When moving, be aware of whether or not you are using your core for its sole purpose: to support your spine.
Be physically active, move often.

Movement dysfunction is a snowballing SOB. Stop it before it’s too late.