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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

Jolly Jumpers and Infant Development

Contributing Author: Rubin, Josh O.T.

Josh RubinJoshua Rubin graduated from American International College with a B.S. in Occupational Therapy. After working with the geriatric population for many years, he decided to take his career to the next level. By incorporating corrective exercise, nutrition and lifestyle coaching with his rehabilitation background, he began working with individuals of all ages within the personal training industry. This is where he found his love for holistic coaching, and as a result of developing San Diego’s EastWest Healing & Performance in 2002, he is one of Southern California’s top Personal Trainer, Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, and Rehabilitation Specialist.

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I have a question for someone. I have heard that jolly jumpers interfere with normal infant development. In regards to movement patterns, is this true?

This is a great question and proves that today, trainers are starting to think outside the box of traditional training. A great resource to read is the book Wisdom of the Body Moving, by Linda Hartly.

First, as human beings, we go through many stages of development. From the second we are in the womb (called naval radiation) to the second we come out, we are breast fed, rolled, etc. We develop neurological programs in the brain for rotating, pushing, pulling, bending, squatting, lunging, and walking. These are what Paul Chek calls primal patterns: functional movements that we have to do (with progressive and regressive variations) to survive in life. If you look at how the caveman survived, not being able to do one of the above patterns meant that death was around the corner for him.

There are many reasons why today’s children are experiencing dysfunctions at younger and younger ages. A main reason is inadequate nutrition, but that is another subject for another time. Another reason is that adults today work more and move less… they are becoming lazy! They are having children, but the problem is that they are still children themselves. Parents would rather put a child in a jolly jumper, a crib, a caged-off area, or in front of the TV or computer rather than letting him or her roll, crawl, or run around. Parents just don’t want to make the effort of chasing after their kids. Plopping their kids in the jolly jumper or in front of the TV is much easier, and allows the parent to work around the house or on the computer. So, in addition to the jolly jumper, there are other, more significant issues associated with this situation.

Back to the jolly jumper. The problem with this piece of equipment is that you are taking a child who is developing in so many ways and you are cutting that development process through the middle. I find that most adults that I assess (I perform an Infant Development assessment with all clients to determine at what age they stopped developing, in what patterns, and how this may have contributed to their dysfunction and pain) were put into a jolly jumper between 7–14 months. This is when most, if not all, children start to develop their contralateral movements, such as brachiation, standing, squatting, and walking.

My assessments show that clients have great difficulty with contralateral movement exercises. Moreover, these are the same people who complain of chronic pain, being uncoordinated, pain on one side of the body, etc. They are unable to use the anterior and posterior slings of the body, have dysfunctional inner unit and outer unit synchronization, lack movement in the transverse plane of motion, and lack contralateral movement patterns (which help dissipate forces away from the spine, such as with gait).

This assessment is important when working with clients. A simple test that you can conduct on a client is to have him or her crawl on the ground and then on all fours. Observe whether the client integrates left and right with each other, and whether there is excessive frontal, sagital, or transverse plane movement. Most people crawl with the right arm and right leg together. More simply, these are the people that you want to regress back to the homologous stage of development (0–5 months), which is integrating UE with LE. An example of this would be a seated bilateral row on a ball, a bilateral cable row to squat, and a pushup to a jack knife. You can move to homolateral patterns (R side and L side) and contralateral patterns down the line. Be creative, think about movement patterns and how they correlate with exercise and, more importantly, how they correlate with LIFE!

Good luck!