Benefits of Heavy Work

Think about the feeling that you have after exercising or doing yard work: your body is more awake, you’re aware of all the muscles you were using, and your mood improves. These incredible benefits are produced through the work of proprioceptive input and heavy work!

What is Heavy Work?

Junge im Park zusammen mit Freunden beim Wettbewerb im Seilspringen im Sommer

Heavy work is defined as any type of activity that pushes or pulls against the body and/or lifting heavy objects or items. This specific type of movement provides proprioceptive input (sensations that underlie body awareness) to the muscles and joints. Like children need food or water to survive, their bodies require sensory input in order to stay focused throughout the day. Every child has unique sensory needs that can be assessed and discovered through clinical observation. Through the combined efforts of professional intervention and sensory tailored activities, the effects can be instantaneous, effective, and, most importantly, fun!

Who can benefit from Heavy Work?

Watch out for pool sharks though (Photo by VisionPic .net)

Everyone can benefit from heavy work activities! Especially with the sudden transition to remote learning and social distancing, everyone is spending an increasing amount of time sitting still. Movement is a critical aspect of everyone’s routine that is utilized to increase stimulation, focus, and alertness. Children and adults with sensory processing disorder and other mental health conditions in particular can especially benefit from implementing these types of activities into their daily routine.

Benefits of Heavy Work

These are all siblings, I think… (Photo by Karolina Grabowska)

There are a multitude of advantages to incorporating heavy work activities into your child’s daily routine. Heavy work can be used to calm a child’s body through organizing and regulating their sensory systems, subsequently reducing their anxiety and stress. Often times, children with sensory processing difficulties don’t know where they are in time or space. This results in children seeking input through crashing into things, typically in an unsafe and uncontrollable manner. Heavy work activities can be utilized to give children the sense of grounding they are searching for and increase their body awareness. Think about how your arms feel after you’re carrying something really heavy. Even after you put the object down, you can still feel the weight; you’re more aware of the muscles in your arms. This results in a residual effect, where given the right amount proprioceptive input, can prevent sensory overload. This can keep a child calm and focused long after the activity is completed. Additionally, heavy work activities will decrease the need to chew in children who self-regulate through chewing on objects such as their shirts or sleeves. Lastly, heavy work releases Serotonin which is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter and is responsible for improving your mood while simultaneously regulating your sensory system.

Examples of Heavy Work activities:

  • Swimming;
  • Monkey bars;
  • Wall push ups;
  • Push ups;
  • Tug of war;
  • Chewing crunchy/chewy foods;
  • Jumping on a trampoline;
  • Jump rope;
  • Doing chores;
  • Wheelbarrow walking;
  • Crab walking

Tips & Tricks

  • Finding the “just right challenge”! The goal of the “just right challenge” is choose activities for your child that is neither too easy nor too hard. The purpose of these activities is to empower, motivate, and challenge your child.
  • Make the activity functional and enjoyable! It can be difficult to engage a child in an activity if it is simply carrying something heavy. Give your activity purpose! For example, have your child help out with the gardening by carrying items over to you.
  • Don’t use these activities as punishment! Although heavy work activities can be calming for some children, it is important to not have your child associate regulating activities with negative reinforcement. It’s not their fault that they do not know how to accurately regulate their bodies.
  • Have your child complete heavy work activities prior to remote learning! This will increase your child’s arousal and help their bodies stay regulated and organized while sitting still, even for long periods of time.
  • Heavy work activities affect everyone differently! It is imperative that an adult closely watches the child’s reaction to these types of activities. As always, consult your Occupational Therapist if you have any questions about what you observed!
  • HAVE FUN! (:

Want to know more?

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About Sasco River Center

A multidisciplinary practice offering a range of diagnostic and therapy services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families; specializing in Collaborative & Comprehensive Testing, Psychotherapy & Sensory Processing.

We are a merger of Sensory Kids & The Southfield Center for Development