When was the last time you rolled on the floor? My guess is that it has probably been a little while. The act of rolling over usually starts around six months of life. However, before the baby rolls over it must learn to lift up their head, push up onto their elbows and reach with their arms and legs. This biologically engrained sequence of events, also known to parents as milestones, is how the baby develops motor strength. Babies do not do any specific exercises, they just simply try to move towards the next milestone. Other milestones include sitting up independently, crawling, pulling up to stand, which ultimately leads to walking. Once a walking pattern is established there is less tendency to crawl, and the longer we walk and sit in chairs the less we are on the floor.
So now consider how much strength it takes a six month old to roll over.
- First the baby must tuck in their chin andlift up their head, arms and legs.
- Then as they roll onto their side, they must slowly turn their hips while straightening the bottom leg and maintaining the top leg bent, stabilize onto the bottom shoulder and start reaching with the top arm.
- Next, they slowly control decent onto their top arm and leg by balancing on their shoulder and hip, pushing up on the bottom arm and knee, then rotating over the bottom elbow and knee, landing on their top arm and knee.
- Finally they must push up on the top arm and knee to let the bottom arm and leg fully rotate.
Try to see if you can repeat this sequence:
- Start lying down with your knees bent. Figure 1.
- Tuck in your chin and lift your head. Lift up your arms. Tighten your abdominals and lift up your legs. Figure 2.
- Holding your head up and abdominals tight, slowly start to roll onto your side. Straighten out your bottom leg and start to reach up with your top arm. Figure 3.
- Slowly roll forward balancing on your shoulder and hip. Figure 4.
- Push into your bottom arm and knee to rotate over them while your top arm and knee start to take weight into them. Figure 5.
- Push into your arm and knee that just landed on the ground to let the bottom arm and leg fully rotate underneath. Figure 6.
After trying one direction, try rolling the opposite way. Which direction is more difficult for you? Can you hold each position for 10 seconds?
While rolling over can get us from our back to our stomach, it can also do so much more for our strength overall. So act like that happy baby again and keep on rolling!
Take care of your body and be healthy!
Stephanie S. Saito, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at HealthCare Partners Physical Therapy in Torrance with a specialty in Orthopedics. A part-time instructor at Mount Saint Mary’s College in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from USC.
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