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Why We Need to Stop Comparing Adult Movements to Children’s

Young boy playing in the playground in summertime

It has become common in fields of physical therapy and performance training to compare adult movement to the ways that babies move. You may have spoken to a professional that uses this comparison in their approach.

The logic usually goes something like this…“Humans were born with the ability to squat fully, and our modern lifestyles robbed us of that ability, so we need to regain it.”

Sounds understandable, right?

I thought so too. I even took a couple of continuing education courses based loosely upon this concept. The class instructors showed pictures of babies at various development stages and attempted to teach movements that mimicked these phases. The idea was to help adults gain back some of the movement capabilities that they once had as children and this new freedom of movement would help to alleviate pain and resolve injury.

Adults Are Not Babies

While I think we’d all love to be able to squat to the floor, crawl around all day, and never get tired, the truth is that we are not babies anymore.

Babies have a large amount of joint laxity that allows them to get into a variety of different positions, that we don’t have as adults. Babies also have a very large head in relation to the body, which helps to provide a counterbalance for easy squatting. In fact, according to Healthline, many of a baby’s bones are composed of cartilage, a type of connective tissue that is tough but flexible. This cartilage turns to bone as we grow.

Their bodies are still growing and changing. They fall often and make mistakes (essential for learning), which flexibility and mobility help with. Because of this, the ability to squat to the floor is normal for a baby. The same cannot always be said for adults.

Adults are not babies, and we cannot use a baby’s movement as a model for how an adult should move. Not only do babies have much different bone and structural compositions, but all adults have different movement capabilities due to variations in torso lengths and body proportions (among other reasons). Using singular movement standards would overlook this critical aspect.

It is nice to think that we could be able to squat to the floor like we once did when we were a toddler. However, adults are not babies, and our bodies are not the same as they once were.

Because of this, we do not expect our physical therapy patients to squat to the floor. It is essential for all of us to set realistic movement standards that will help to live pain-free and healthy lives. For help in the arena, talk to our experienced physical therapy team in Bethesda!

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