What Is Kinesthesis?

Kinesthesis during baseball

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What Is Kinesthesis?

Kinesthesis, also referred to as kinesthesia or kinesthetic sense, is the perception of body movements. It involves being able to detect changes in body position and movements. You are using your kinesthetic sense whenever you are engaged in physical activity such as walking, running, driving, dancing, swimming—anything that requires body movement.

When you compress or tense your muscles, they detect and communicate sensory information about movement and posture. This sense is also sometimes referred to as muscle memory.

Note that kinesthesis is not the same as equilibrium. The ability to detect and maintain balance involves different sensory inputs and is linked to the functions of the inner ear.

Recap

Kinesthesis is a sense that relies on receptors in the muscles, joints, and tendons. This sense plays an important role in the ability to control body movements, including walking, posture, and expressions.

Signs of Kinesthesis

Through your sense of kinesthesis, you can tell where different parts of your body are located, even if your eyes are closed or you are not looking at your body. For example, when you are riding a bicycle, receptors in your arms and legs send information to the brain about the position and movement of your limbs.

When you need to perform a complex physical action, your sense of kinesthesis allows you to know where your body is and how much further it needs to go. Some signs that you are using your sense of kinesthesis include:

  • Performing physical activities that require certain body movements to complete, such as sports, mechanics, cooking, or painting
  • Coordinating movements to perform physical tasks
  • Practicing physical activities to learn how to repeat them again, such as riding a bike or dribbling a basketball
  • Engaging in activities that require hand-eye coordination
  • Typing on a keyboard without looking at the keys
  • Being able to detect how heavy an object is after picking it up

One sign that kinesthesis is at work is if you are moving your body and are able to stop at the exact moment that you want to. You can do this even if you are not relying on your vision to tell you when to stop moving.

When you think of the five major senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing), you might note that these all tend to focus on perceiving stimuli outside of the self. Kinesthesis is one type of sense that is focused on the body's internal events.

Uses of Kinesthesis

Kinesthesis is one of the four major learning styles in the Fleming VARK model, along with visual, auditory, and reading/writing. According to theories of learning styles, people learn best if instruction is offered according to their learning preferences.

An individual with a kinesthetic learning style would learn best by doing, or actually performing an action.

People who are kinesthetic learners learn through hands-on experiences. They prefer to move and stay active as they are learning. Games and physical activities are helpful and make concepts and skills more memorable.

Imagine, for example, that you are trying to learn how to hit a baseball with a bat. If you have a kinesthetic learning style, you might learn best by performing the action. Instead of just reading about how to hit a ball or watching other people perform this action, you need to get a bat in your hands and practice swinging it.

Kinesthetic learners typically enjoy being physically active, excel at sports, and have fast reaction times. The VARK model suggests that people with this learning style may prefer lessons that involve movement, such as doing an experiment, working with a group to solve a problem, or performing a skit.

The concept of learning styles is enormously popular, particularly in the field of education. However, most research has found that there is little evidence that instructing students according to their preferred learning style impacts educational outcomes.

Recap

People with a kinesthetic learning style may learn through their sense of kinesthesis. This means they prefer activities that incorporate movement or physical activity, and often learn best through direct experience.

Impact of Kinesthesis

Kinesthesis plays an essential role in daily life. This sense is vital for many of the skills and actions that people rely on every day, including driving a car, riding a bike, or even just walking down the street.

Without kinesthesis, such actions could be perilous or even potentially dangerous. Kinesthetics can also have therapeutic applications, including:

  • Body-based and movement-focused therapies: Some therapies, including physical therapy and occupational therapy, rely on many different aspects of kinesthesis. The use of kinesthetics can be useful for helping people achieve important daily living tasks.
  • Kinesthetic/tactile massage: This type of massage focuses on the body's movement rather than the pressure applied. This can be helpful for people who are recovering from an injury or who have chronic pain.
  • Kinesthetic exercises: These can improve balance and coordination, which can be especially helpful for older adults who are at risk of falling.
  • Athletics: Kinesthesis can also be used to improve athletic performance. For example, training with a kinesthetic coach can help an athlete learn the correct way to perform a particular movement. This can help them avoid injury and improve their overall performance. 

A Word From Verywell

While there has been little empirical support for the concept of learning styles, there may be ways to take advantage of a preference for kinesthetic learning.

If you are a person with a strong kinesthetic sense who prefers learning by doing, you might opt to incorporate physical activity when learning new things. For example, rather than focusing only on reading instruction manuals or listening to lectures, you might look for ways that you can gain hands-on experience.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Kinesthesis. American Psychological Association.

  2. Pashler H, McDaniel M, Rohrer D, Bjork R. Learning styles: Concepts and evidencePsychol Sci Public Interest. 2008;9(3):105-19. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x

  3. Elmoneim MA, Mohamed HA, Awad A, et al. Effect of tactile/kinesthetic massage therapy on growth and body composition of preterm infants. Eur J Pediatr. 2021;180(1):207-215. doi:10.1007/s00431-020-03738-w