Physiological Development

Our sense of physical Balance is based on many different senses working together in harmony. The position of your body, overall coordination, feedback from the senses, and body control all work together to create the sense of balance. It’s not so much any one sense that dominates but rather an overall combination. Many inputs come together to create a fluid state we call balance. A healthy human body interprets all of the forces acting upon it and reacts in a coordinated manner. The response, which we call physical Balance, becomes almost instinctual. One may wonder do we, as humans, learn our sense of Balance through our interaction with the world or is it hard-wired into our being, something innate that only needs just the correct amount of stimuli to spring forth into our being.
We need a sense of Balance to maintain our bodily posture during static tasks and also in human activities where movement is required.
Static balance is the ability to be still with control. Dynamic balance is the opposite, to remain balanced while moving.

Children seem to learn at a greatly accelerated rate. We as adults don’t recall how basic balance skills were learned. Here are some of the basic Balance skills that healthy children appear to learn without any special coaxing.

During the first year of life a healthy child will learn to roll either way, sit without support, get into a sitting position from their stomach, stand while holding onto something, and walk while holding onto furniture. Gross motor skills such as rolling and crawling are learned. Motor skills generally develop from the centre of the body outward and from the head downward. Babies need time and space to crawl around and use their muscles. By around age 2 months, they are able to raise their head and chest up off the ground and rest their body on their elbows when they’re lying on their stomachs. By around 3 months, they can hold themselves up for several minutes.

By the second year a healthy child would be walking and running, climbing on and off furniture, and climbing stairs (albeit one stair at a time). From this age onwards they learn from curiosity and by mimicking adults. Walking and running transitions from toddler movements to more adult-like and natural movements.

By the third year a healthy child would be experimenting with balance and playing with gravity. They would be easing into dynamic balance games such as small bicycles, swings. They are very capable of copying and imitating although skill-sets are still developing.

By age four a child’s static balance has improved so that they can do simple tasks and their dynamic balance skills are improving. More a continuation and improvement upon year three. Also other skills of coordination and grasping are improving as well. But our focus is upon human Balance, how the many sensory inputs evolve into a singular fluid state.

By year five a child has evolved balance skills to the point where they can finesse their physical activities without assistance. They can climb stairs, ride bicycles, and hold a static position for longer than a few seconds

By year six a child can catch and throw, balance with eyes closed, skip. Learning Balance is less with curiosity and more through playing. Life basics have been learned, they are mobile, and experimenting with Balance.

From year six to almost puberty Balance continues to develop. Everyone is different. Some children experience periods of growth but Balance and coordination skills have to play a game of catch-up.

Along the way children may become involved in competitive physical activities and or display a natural aptitude or skill towards a particular Balance skill.

When children become mobile and independent enough to venture outdoors, hopefully under some sort of supervision , they begin discovering uneven and unstable surfaces. I think this is key to Balance, putting oneself into situations where one has to gather new input from all the senses and quickly find that fluid state of balance that will allow one to safely navigate the same situation.
Children will now climb trees, balance on edges. Balance moves away from a curiosity to an adventure.

Young children learn physical gross motor concepts and skills like balance, awareness of right and left side, spatial orientation and the coordination of major muscles. Their outside time is full physical and full of pretend.

As children move forward in time and mature into adults physical skills appear to be learned by different methods. The mind seems to take over at some point in a person’s life. Meaning an adult can use it to acquire a new skill or allow the mind to become so busy that any natural method of learning is somehow dulled.

Two Researchers, Fitts and Posner, suggested that the learning process has three stages to learning a new skill:

Cognitive phase – develop a mental picture of the skill
Associative phase – practice the skill into a smooth action
Autonomous phase -do it until you don’t have to think about doing it.

Performance phase – do whatever while not thinking about doing it.

Put into simple English, just keep doing perfect practice until you have a perfect skill. The old sweat and grind.

Schmidt’s Schema Theory has a different approach
Schmidt’s schema is based on the theory that that every time a movement is conducted four pieces of information are gathered:
-Starting point
-Physical action
-How did it FEEL.

Schmidt’s Theory resonates with me because I can almost hear my old Martial Arts teacher saying “don’t think-use feeling.
For him, the path of learning was to find the feeling associated with a particular technique and then practice to refine the technique. Patterns of movement (Kata) were rarely taught. I like this, I believe it is the way people naturally learn or at least how they learned when they were very young. This idea of learning implies that at some point a nameless something, that elusive feeling would be intuitively grasped by the mind and body and from that point onwards learning would progress.

There is yet another idea of Learning. Learned skills can be transferred.
Skills of Balance (balance implying related skills of agility and coordination)
developed in one activity or sport could be transferred over to another physical activity to speed the learning process of another skill-set.

It gets more interesting as people grow. Skill-sets developed on one side of the body could be transferred to the other. Or Not.

Sincerely Yours In Balance
Editor In Chief