As trainers, we are more than the persons who work with our clients one to three times a week, but we are also a resource for parents, teachers, and those who work with our clients.  Many children and teens benefit from exercise because it is heavy work.  Many activities we demonstrate in the gym can be modified for work in the school and home.

Many children and teens benefit from exercise because it is heavy work.

What is Heavy Work?

Heavy work is a term coined to describe any type of activity that activates proprioceptive receptors. Proprioception is the sensory system responsible for body awareness and it activates in the muscles, joints, and ligaments. Heavy work can have a calming effect or alert and orienting effect, based on what your client is craving. It allows your client to get adequate proprioceptive input that will help them focus and increase self-regulation Proprioception works closely with the vestibular system, which has a huge effect on your child’s behaviors. Heavy work activities make great “brain breaks” during the day or when your child/teen just needs some time to reset so they can focus on an activity or task.

Trainers can practice with their clients and give parents suggestions under the guidance of an OT or PT for appropriate proprioceptive activities. Some of the activities that trainers can add to their training to help parents is helping children do:

  • Jumping
  • Have children do activities with their hands such as wheelbarrow walking
  • Activities where they are pushing and pulling various objects both with large and small muscles
  • Hatha Yoga with basic sun salutations
  • Climbing walls
  • Running
  • Crab walking
  • Riding  a bike
  • Jump rope
  • Small trampoline
  • Hoppy Ball
  • Balance beam
  • Dancing
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Heavy Objects lifting

Chores with big muscles include:

  • Scrubbing the floor
  • Wiping the counters
  • Yard work
  • Shoveling snow

Chores with small muscles include:

  • Sorting plates
  • Groceries
  • Recycling
  • Taking out the garbage

Obstacles and relays with heavy baskets:

  • Pushing and pulling games
  • Strength training or games with exercise bands
  • Tug-of-War
  • Calisthenics
  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Planks

Weighted backpacks – Just fill a backpack up with some dictionaries and let a student wear it; scarves and vests blankets; and tap animals to help youngsters stay calm throughout the day!

What are the benefits of heavy work?  They help organize the brain, are calming, helps refocus a child or teen before mental work, improves attention, helps with body awareness, and strengthens muscle tone. Finally, it helps with heavy-weight bearing activities on ANY of your joint and muscles.

Heavy work is great for all children, not just children with sensory processing disorder. This will make sure the child is getting plenty of time to get the kind of exercise needed to manage the stresses the sensory child’s brain is experiencing.

When a child has sensory needs, there is often an element that craves input into the body. Heavy work, in conclusion, is Proprioceptive input is the performance of tasks that involve heavy resistance and input to the muscles and joints and is essential in helping our bodies assimilate and process both movement (vestibular) and touch (tactile) information. An exercise is a natural form of overall health. With the sensory child, this holds true, but “heavy work” exercises are going to be the most beneficial.

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Christina Chapan

Christina Chapan

Christina Lee Steele Chapan is a certified personal trainer with four certifications from ISSA ACE, AFAA and SCW. She specializes with fitness for children and those adults and children with special needs. In addition to attaining her certifications, she is also a certified elementary and special education school teacher with a B.S. in Elementary Education, a minor in Biblical Studies from North Central University, an endorsement in Special Education, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Development from Governors State University. Her passion is for training the future of tomorrow. She is available for training, speaking and writing.
Christina Chapan

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