In Fem’s workshop a few weeks ago at Bonobo, she briefly covered the process of osteogenesis from baby to adult, and how our environment as we grow can effect the movement that’s accessible to us as adults.
Osteogenesis is essentially the hardening of bone. When we are born our bones are made up of flexible cartilage (a firm tissue softer than bone) and as we age, some of the cartilage hardens and turns to bone, and some bones fuse together.
A child’s bones won’t stop growing until their late teens or early 20’s, which means as they grow, the bones are constantly remodelling and realigning themselves in response to pressure.
Knowing this, a child’s movement variety and habits during adolescence will have a big impact on how their bones end up fully formed as an adult.
A couple of things we don’t often think about that can have a lasting impact are shoes and sitting positions.
How can shoes have an impact?
Imagine going for a walk in the Mt Victoria trails barefoot.
The first thing you’ll notice is the temperature of the ground and the texture.
As you walk your feet will mold and shift to the different surfaces they encounter, you’ll probably walk faster on the softer, flatter ground and more carefully when you have to cross tree roots or stones.
All these small pressures get transferred through the bones above your feet, through your legs, pelvis, spine…and the information is a little more dense when the feet can sense everything.
Now imagine wearing a pair of shoes.
There’s an instant difference just in your ability to sense texture and temperature.
You’ll walk with less caution and adjustment.
The information being transferred upwards is slightly muted (a common analogy is imagine how things would feel if you wore gloves for everything you do with your hands).
Now, shoes are vitally important for us, they give us protection and flexibility.
But, it’s important for kids to spend a good amount of time barefoot, and wear shoes that aren’t too constricting, so the pressures being transferred through the body and the bones are rich with information.
I saw a youtube video a few years ago where a guy took the mickey out of modern living environments.
It essentially showed him waking up in bed, swinging his legs out to sitting on the edge, sitting in a chair eating his breakfast, sitting in his car driving to work, sitting at his desk at work, sitting to eat his lunch at the cafe, sitting in the car to head home, sitting to eat dinner, sitting on the couch to watch tv, before heading back to bed.
It was a pretty confronting series of images to be honest.
Just a bunch of positions where his bones were essentially stuck in some sort of 90 degree position.
Imagine how a child’s bones would form if their day was even 50% of this?!
Our legs are designed to fold and twist into many positions.
This is why floor sitting is so important for kids, there’s really only one position you can sit in on a chair, but there’s a ton when sitting on the floor.
It means their hips, knees and ankles are exposed to many different pressures and angles, allowing our bones to grow into a structure that allows a wide variety of movement and positions.
Remember, bones are important! Soft tissue continues to mould and grow through our lives, but once our bones are fully grown there's not really much chance of editing them.
Creating healthy movement habits for our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give their bones!