What’s up with W-sitting? Are Core Stability Exercises Needed?
If my work came out with a yearbook, the favourite expression listed under my picture would probably be “fix your feet!” My “seen most often” would be running around the gym correcting the kids sitting position and making sure they are not W-sitting. But why am I doing this? What’s really so wrong with W-sitting? I’ve had many people tell me that they’ve sat like that their whole lives and have had no issues. While that may be true in some cases, most often there can be problems or pain later in life that may be traced back to W sitting. Let me go into further detail and explain why.
Most often there can be problems or pain later in life that may be traced back to W sitting.
What is W-sitting?
W-sitting is when a child sits on the floor with his or her bum between their legs, and their knees are bent in front of them and their legs are rotated away from their body. From a birds-eye view, it looks like the legs are forming a “W”.
Why do kids W-sit?
This position is super stable for children to sit in. In W-sitting, a child’s base of support is wider and the center of gravity is lower, which allows for increased stability for their body. This also makes it an easy position for the child to play in because they don’t have to work on keeping their balance while focusing on their toys.
It is a stressful position for the young bones to be in which can lead to deformities later on, and can also predispose a child to hip dislocation.
Why is it a concern?
From an orthopedic standpoint, W-sitting causes the hip and leg muscles to become shortened and tight. This can lead to “pigeon toed” walking and may increase chance of back or pelvis pain as they grow. It is a stressful position for the young bones to be in which can lead to deformities later on, and can also predispose a child to hip dislocation.
This can influence the development of other motor skills later on that require this coordination, such as hand dominance, skipping, throwing, and kicking.
Developmentally, W-sitting can hinder the development of balance reactions and coordination. When W-sitting it is not possible for the child to shift their weight over each side or to actively rotate their trunk, making it difficult to reach toys that are outside of their immediate reach. Lateral weight shifting and rotating are two very important skills that are needed to develop good balance reactions and to develop the ability to cross midline. Bilateral coordination (the ability to effectively use both sides of the body together) is delayed as a result. This can influence the development of other motor skills later on that require this coordination, such as hand dominance, skipping, throwing, and kicking.
A weak core can lead to poor posture, overcompensation of other muscle groups, and other delayed skills.
What can you do to help? Core stability exercises
If a child is frequently in a W-sitting position, it is usually a sign of decreased core strength. When the core is weak the child needs to have a stable position to be in so they can play, so W-sitting is their solution to that problem. However, a weak core can lead to poor posture, overcompensation of other muscle groups, and other delayed skills. So if your child is a W-sitter, here are a few things you can do to help correct it:
- Encourage other ways to sit on the floor. Sitting with crossed legs (‘criss-cross applesauce’!), side sitting (legs on either side), long sitting (legs out in front), or sitting on a low bench or stool.
- When playing for an extended period of time, place stickers on their toes and remind them that they always have to be able to see the stickers.
- Core stability exercises:
- Bridging: Have your child lie on their back with their knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Encourage them to lift their bum off the floor. Be sure that they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground. I like to see how many toy cars they can let go under their bridge to encourage them to hold it.
- Crab walking: Have your child sit on the floor with their knees bent in front of them and their hands supporting them behind them. Encourage them to lift their bum up and try and take a few “steps” with their hands and feet.
- Wheelbarrow walking:Have your child lay on their stomach on the floor. While you hold their knees (easier) or ankles (bit more of a challenge), have them walk their hands forward 10 steps and backward 10 steps.
- Play row-row your boat (great adult core strengthening too!)
If you find that your child has a hard time maintaining any other position besides W-sitting, speak with your pediatrician or a physiotherapist for suggestions on how to correct the position and for treatment of any underlying strength deficits or muscle tightening that may have resulted.
Check this out for another great article on this topic.
Try and discourage W-sitting
Reminder – “fix your feet!”
Work on improving core strength
Help encourage other sitting postures