There are many uses for a hammock—for instance, developing a child’s brain.
Dr. Deiter Breithecker, a Health and Kinetics scientist and head of the Federal Institute on the Development of Posture and Movement in Wiesbaden, Germany, has found hammocks to be a useful tool when treating children.
“To use a hammock as a therapeutic measure is not really surprising,” Breithecker said. “It is well known among scientists that swinging and rocking are basic activities that children carry out regularly to support developmental processes.”
Even nine years ago, it was noted that child development was on a decline. According to a study conducted by Kenneth Ginsburg in 2007, cognitive abilities did not develop as easily in children due to factors such as a more hurried lifestyle and an increased emphasis on academic life, which can hinder a child’s ability to perform recreational abilities that push the cognitive process along.
Breithecker originally pursued the field of kinetic development when he realized that it has, as was discovered, become increasingly difficult for children to physically stimulate their bodies for proper brain development. Breithecker also pointed out that a lazy mindset is also part of the problem.
“The problem at hand is that more and more children have a lack of physical skills which have an impact on a wide range of psychosomatic health disorders,” Breithecker said. “An increasing inactivity with a sedentary life style in the western cultures is mainly responsible for that. To get that under control, we have to invest into health preservation in early childhood when children are passing a sensitive and critical period of development processes.”
According to the International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation, psychosomatic disorders are “manifestations of physical imbalance in which emotional components have a strong influence.” There are countless physical effects that could lead to such a disorder, but as seen in the previous study, activities that strengthen one’s balance (as well as other kinetic aspects) are critical to preventing such ailments later in life.
Knowing the importance of balance in such a process, Breithecker decided to treat his patients by using hammocks, which suspended the patient in midair while provoking rocking motions.
“It has a similar effect as swinging on a swing or balancing on fallen tree trunks,” he said. “Developing physical, mental and emotional interdependencies are done through balance.”
The semicircular canals, which are found within the ears, are the body parts that control an individual’s balance control. Breithecker pointed out that the strengthening of this body part is done through the synaptic switching of nerve cells, which requires physical activities that induce a sense of imbalance.
Along with their scientific benefits, Breithecker also has enjoyed the conveniently intuitive nature of hammocks. He explained that a hammock itself is what he calls a “movement temptation”—that is, a device that, as he said himself, “stimulate children to carry out a wide range of self-organized activities which go far beyond our ideas of application.”
For this reason, Breithecker pointed out that children need very little direction when using a hammock.
“Hammocks are a good investment for homes because of their stimulation of balance,” he said. “It is not necessary that hammock activities are always organized by adults.”
Not only has Breithecker found hammocks to be mentally stimulating tools that don’t need much explanation, he has also discovered that his patients love them.
“They enjoy it,” Breithecker said in reference to his patients using the hammocks. “You can notice the smile on their faces, the alert eyes and very often you can hear enthusiastic and joyful cries.”
Breithecker explained that the children’s enjoyment of the hammocks not only displays superficial enjoyment, but also “shows how they absorb those important stimulations.”
Overall, Breithecker believes hammocks bring great benefits to children’s mental health and are worth having for many reasons.
“Children are growing up in environments with a lack of natural physical stimulations,” he said. “Hammocks are a good investment for homes because of their stimulation of balance.”There are many ways to sit in a hammock. How many of them do you know?