Benefits Of Gymnastics For Kids
Gymnastics classes are one of the most exciting, social and physical activities a child can take part in from a very young age.
Some children love the idea and can’t wait to jump into a leotard and do cartwheels all day long.
Other children are apprehensive when involved in group activities but through the guidance of a friendly, fun and engaging gymnastics teacher your child can learn to enjoy gymnastics and benefit from it socially, mentally and physically.
We are compiling a list of benefits of gymnastics, with interesting and unique insights from the gymnastics world.
1 Developing A Sense Of Curiosity
Mark Gibson, the highly experienced and inspirational former Junior Olympic gymnastics coach, was kind enough to share his views on the benefits children can experience by taking part in gymnastics.
overcome their fears
Having taught gymnastics for over 35 years and written an awesome book that focuses on motivating gymnasts and athletes to overcome their fears, believe in themselves and develop a winning mindset, he really understands deeply how people think and what makes people able to be courageous, gain strength from letting go of fears and pursue their dreams
With all this gymnastics experience behind him and having also taken part in some of the most unique adventures around the world, including skateboarding an incredible 600 miles!! I was curious to find out how he would respond to me asking him what he thinks is the most important benefit for children taking part in gymnastics.
‘Gymnastics teaches kids to be curious. In our sport you don’t just spend a lifetime getting better at the same skills (running, jumping, throwing catching, hitting).
In gymnastics you are constantly challenged to learn new skills and never become too comfortable with what you can already do’
I really like this answer, Life is always full of new challenges and different situations, so being able to adapt and push yourself to learn new skills as a child, can really develop a solid foundation for later life when you will have the courage to learn and implement new skills in order to adapt to the challenges life throws at us.
Mark expanded on his answer, with his clear passion for gymnastics and love of sharing this passion with others, obvious for all to see.
‘they have to have an “I can’t…YET!” attitude. They need to always be fired up about all the cool, awesome, fun opportunities that are still out there in the world.
If we as coaches can send them off into the rest of their lives with that kind of curiosity then we will have taught them a skill way more important than flips and cartwheels.
(Although flips and cartwheels are also pretty cool. Especially when you are 57 and still doing them at weddings to embarrass your own teenage kids.)’
I think that this sense of curiosity is often developed under the guidance of a teacher like Mark or role model, who is selfless and genuinely wants to give to others, by sharing, helping and living what they teach everyday.
2Gymnastics starts at home
My first experience of gymnastics was performing a forward roll ( roly poly ) as a child.
I would place the cushions off the sofa onto the floor and role again and again until I got dizzy and couldn’t stop laughing.
Even though I was adventurous I wasn’t brave enough to attempt a backwards role and my cartwheels looked like I was performing a wrestling slam rather than a majestic gymnastics tumble.
Most children first experience the fun of gymnastics without even realising it.
Sometimes this is on a bouncy castle, performing flips and throwing their body around attempting to both dance, enter the Olympics and imitate wonder women with a new-found ability to fly
… or should I say bounce a couple of feet higher
Things have changed since then though and it is possible to start gymnastics at home, with some additional resources that can make learning useful gymnastics skills more fun.
I asked Robin and Gemma from Headoverheels gymnastics for their opinion on Starting gymnastics and they introduced me to the head over heels series of gymnastics books that focus on giving children the opportunity to start to learn the basics of gymnastics at home.
The Head over heels series of books aim to make learning gymnastics from a young age easier. with lots of colourful pictures showing how to develop skills such as the headstand and bridge, children can easily learn gymnastics skills from home and parents can join in the fun suggested activities too.
Children often learn visually and it is easier to encourage them to engage with learning new skills if they are presented in a fun way.
Whether your children start gymnastics at home or at a gymnastics class they are going to develop ‘transferable skills which are used in most sports and Physical Education lessons. Gymnastics develops great core strength which can sometimes be missed in other sports.
Through developing this core strength all children will gain control and stability, helping them with their sports and even have an impact on things like sitting with correct posture in a chair at school’ (Headoverheels gymnastics)
Sitting correctly in a chair at school and being able to do so for a longer length of time, because of the improved core strength, can also help increase the length of time your kids are able to focus on the teacher in class or concentrate on their work without fidgeting and becoming tired or distracted.
‘There are a multitude of other key skills that are learnt from gymnastics such as discipline and confidence which can be applied to all areas of life, as well as the more obvious physical benefits’ ( headoverheels gymnastics)
Starting gymnastics at home from a young age can start to build up a child’s confidence in their own capabilities and willingness to try new activities and learn new skills while having fun.
Starting from home doesn’t have to involve cushions or pillows anymore. It is also possible to enjoy gymnastics at home with a tumbling mat , Cheese mat, gymnastics bars and other fun professional equipment.
Younger children are much more flexible than adults because their bones are still developing.
This means that babies have the pleasure of being able to nibble on their own toes quite comfortably.
Starting gymnastics at a young age is much easier because this flexibility makes performing stretches, somersaults, tumbling and acrobatics much easier and less demanding on a young healthy body.
Professor William Sands even went as far as to say that
‘Gymnasts are among the most flexible of all athletes’
His research and expertise led him to believe that because gymnasts are having to perform unique and specific positions in order to improve and perform their skills ‘The flexibility demands of gymnastics are probably the most significant and unique aspects of gymnastics that serves to separate gymnastics from most other sports.’ ( Sands, William. (2017). What are the benefits of gymnastics?. )
I would agree that gymnastics does involve some unique positions and movements that aren’t learnt or used in any other sports. Where else are you likely to perform a straddle or hold your own weight on a pommel horse while performing very strange and unique looking scissor work and flairs.
The only other exercises and sports that have some similarly unique positions are Yoga, ballet and Tai Chi. They may help produce a similar level of flexibility but they certainly don’t include the strength, timing and level of skill required to even perform some of the most basic Gymnastics exercises.
4When should a child start Gymnastics ?
Children between the ages of 1 and 5 can start gymnastics. Toddlers gymnastics classes usually begin with both a child and their parent or under close supervision. Working together they can practice lots of different movements through a wide range of motions that activate muscles and joints.
It is possible for toddlers to improve their muscle memory, brain development and physical strength from a very young age through gymnastics exercises. Toddlers learn to explore their own bodies capabilities and usually take part in lots of fun activities. Learning to jump, run, roll and balance is a lot of fun and also help improve coordination and confidence.
When parents watch or take part in toddlers gymnastic classes they can enjoy watching their child learn new skills, make new friends all while laughing and having fun.
5Physical benefits of children gymnastics
The Physics committee for responsible medicine wrote an article which outlined the need for a healthy diet and lifestyle in order to help bone growth. Most importantly they mentioned exercise is a key factor in how strong a child’s bones will become as they grow older. Gymnastics is one of the best exercises for the whole body.
Gymnastics can improve children’s flexibility as well as providing them with full body physical strength and conditioning and set them up with excellent core strength, balance and coordination skills useful for all sports or fitness activities they pursue in later life.
Children who have taken part in gymnastics and practiced consistently for a number of years will have a massive physical fitness advantage over kids who are less active or who haven’t focused in the same way on exercises that rely on the weight of your own body like gymnastics does.
‘Many studies have reported the benefits of moderate impact activities such as gymnastics has on the development of bone density and the prevention of osteoporosis. Plyometric exercises (also known as jump training) like tumbling and vaulting have been determined by the American College of Sports Medicine to be a safe, beneficial and fun activity for children’ ( gym.net)
Children can be hyperactive and focusing on a task doesn’t always come easily for them. Gymnastics and most of the disciplines, especially when performing on the bars or beams, require a lot of focus in order to succeed and not fall.
A competition beam is 4 inches wide and children learn to perform handstands, leaps and amazing back handsprings whilst keeping balanced on the beam. This requires exceptional focus and balance. It isn’t even easy to walk along the beam if you aren’t used to having to balance.
Learning to focus on yourself and your body is useful in all walks of modern life where there are so many distractions. Having this awareness and ability to maintain focus on a task is one of the greatest skills a child can learn.
An interesting quote from a parent of a gymnast, I found in this article, shows their belief that focus is one of the most important benefits of gymnastics. if you are going to compete in any sport or take part in performances of any kind it is highly important to be able to focus clearly and not lose composure.
“Not only do the gymnasts acquire the ability to focus on an activity while blocking out what’s going on around them, my daughter learned valuable time– management skills that carried over into all her activities and school. The focusing ability helped her at a musical competition when a quartet started in the next room at a totally different tempo and loud enough so that she had a difficult time hearing her accompanist.The adjudicator came out and congratulated her on her ability to continue her piece the way it was supposed to be instead of letting the other music bother her.As to time–management skills – we can all use some of this! Now as a college student she is able to finish her work (as an architecture major) as required despite having to fit in 20+ hours of practice a week. This helped her all through high school when she was on a school and a club team and managed to maintain a 95 cumulative average with AP and honours courses while juggling two sets of workouts and multiple meets a week.During HS season her grades actually improved! Focusing and time-management are the two main advantages I give parents for the sport. This is over and above the self–satisfaction, self–esteem, team building abilities, and other obvious reasons for the sport.“ (C. Hill, Sunday, November 15, 1998, 03:46 PM )
7Overcoming fears and staying motivated
In this interview with Olympic Gymnastic Simone Biles, she mentions that at one point in her life she wasn’t good enough to compete at the elite level and could easily have given up. Instead of not pursuing her dreams, she practised harder and for longer hours and it paid off.
It doesn’t matter whether your child is aiming to be an elite gymnasts or be able to perform a Kip smoothly, being able to overcome obstacles and fears can really open up a new sense of freedom and self-belief in your child’s social life, studies and eventually in their career.
8No Need for medicine – Practice gymnastics instead!
Medicine can be very important and saves lives every day, but it is interesting to read about other ways you might be able to improve your physical and psychological health.
Physical activity plays a key role in stopping some dangerous illnesses. Exercise can also reduce the risk of ending up being diabetic by 58% according to the Yale School of Medicine. Of course, starting gymnastics at a young age won’t necessarily stop these illnesses from happening, but evidence shows exercises like gymnastics are much more likely to improve your kid’s chances of staying healthy (Merrett, Theis & Ashbury, 2000, Yale University School of Medicine, 2001).
Physical activity has been found to delay the development of high blood pressure and help reduce high blood pressure in adolescents who have hypertension (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1999)
9Attend a Gymnastics summer camp
If your children take part in gymnastics they will often have the chance to attend a gymnastics summer camp. These fun camps give young gymnasts a chance to spend more time in the gymnasium practising their gymnastics skills and learning from more experienced children and teachers.
With the extra time off school, kids have the chance to do more exercise and condition their bodies even more than usual so they are well prepared for school or club gymnastics next semester.
Sometimes activities at camps involve singing around a camp fire, swimming or other fun sports and team games.
These camps are beneficial because they allow kids to meet need friends, often from different towns in your state and sometimes from across the country. A focus on having fun and enjoying yourself is important, they aren’t work camps, they are a more relaxed environment that will help children enjoy gymnastics even more and learn some new skills all whilst having the time of their lives camping overnight with friends.
10Children Learn much quicker than adults
It is a well-known fact that the things we learn in childhood are learnt much faster and with greater easier than when we get older. Children are able to pick up and have the time to let their body grow and developed whilst becoming familiar with gymnastics. As is the case with Ballet and other similar disciplines, the earlier you start praticing any partciular skill the higher the chance that you will succeed before it becomes ‘too late’. ( Technique Magazine )
What do you think are the benefits of gymnastics for kids ?
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