Movement is Nurturing (Part 1):

We are Not Born Movers… We Become Them!

Despite the fact that, as humans, our bodies have evolved to help us become efficient movers, we aren’t actually born with this ability. Rather, as our nervous systems develop and mature, we acquire new skills that need to be nurtured in order to progressively reach our movement potential.
All movement is initiated in the Central Nervous System (CNS). Therefore it’s only rational that development begins there as well. Think of it this way: The CNS holds the software that enables our bodily systems to move, act and behave in ways we expect. Specifically, the CNS coordinates how our muscles contract or relax around joints, which creates stability and movement.

Yet, nature doesn’t let us download the fastest and most advanced software right out of the gate. Instead, we’re born with an immature CNS that limits our ability to perform even simple tasks, let alone complex, purposeful movement.

To see this in action, picture a newborn baby’s fidgety, whole body movements: They’re often done in response to external factors, such as light, noise or touch, and aren’t under the infant’s control.

One-weekold infant demonstrating “fidgety” movementnormally observed until the third to fifth month of life. It is automatic and lacks any specific purpose.

A baby’s fidgets are automatic and lack purpose.

As the CNS matures, the software code inscribed in the higher centres of the CNS is formed. This allows our muscles to receive instructions from our brains, to gain control of the body and successively begin using it with purpose.

At this point, movement evolves in a predictable, stepwise fashion that’s been genetically pre-determined over the millennia that we’ve developed as human beings. Because when you really think about it, no one teaches a newborn how to grasp a finger, roll, crawl or take their first step. In all healthy babies, this happens naturally and predictably, and sets the groundwork for more complex bodily movement in the future.

The coordination involved in grasping an object is more complex than you might think.

When a baby reaches for a hand, a toy, or some other thing and squeezes it with their hand—a behaviour that usually appears around the four-month mark—we call that a “purposeful grasp.” And though we don’t necessarily think much of this movement, it’s actually a highly complicated action.

Four-month-old infant demonstrating a purposeful grasp of an object—a skill that emerges around the fourth month of life.

It starts with a newborn’s ability to gaze at an object, track it and move their head in reference to it—something that develops at or around one month of age. In preparation for this skill, the CNS code needed to properly stabilize and move the neck becomes integrated with the programming that coordinates sight with eye movement.

Over time, as the CNS continues to mature, the stabilizing function needed in the neck starts to spread lower down in the spine and torso to the point where, at three to four months of age, the infant is able to stabilize their torso enough to allow it to act as a stability point for the arm, which is necessary for safe arm movement.

The next step, then, is grasping. The baby’s CNS prompts their body to meticulously coordinate the stability of their torso while moving their head, eyes and hand. Without the pre-requisite stability, there would be no purposeful movement of the arm and hand, and therefore, no grasping.

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Nurturing newly attained movements through practice is essential for further development as a mover

Now, here’s where the dynamic relationship between movement and nurturing gets flipped around.

As the baby grows and discovers their new abilities, they nurture them with repetition; this helps to reinforce these skills, by strengthening the CNS code required for these movements.

Since the success of future (and more complex) skills is dependent on pre-requisite skills, nurturing newly attained movements via practice is essential for further development as a mover.And recognize:This concept has broader applications, to complex skill acquisition, even into adulthood.

[For more on this, check out the next two posts, “Movement Is Nurturing (Part 2): Movement Shapes Us” and “Movement Needs to Be Nurtured (Part 1): Where Things Can Go Wrong.

Conclusion: Building on the basics to nurture your body’s long-term potential

During development, movement has a “nurturing” role, as it helps to reinforce newly acquired motor skills, which consequently become pre-requisites that make more complex, purposeful movements possible.

Yet, because our blueprint for ideal purposeful movement is inscribed within our CNS (which matures during development), it’s also vitally important to nurture movement from an early stage in order to meet the human body’s full potential.

In my next post, “Movement Is Nurturing (Part 2),” we’ll explore how movement shapes us as active and fully-functioning human beings.

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