by David Arroyo, Demand Media
Gymnastics is an extension of body-weight training. For example, unlike Olympic lifting, there is no external load or resistance. It’s created by the athlete, which grants them greater control of the movement and the freedom to terminate it if he or she is uncomfortable — except in the middle of extremely complex movements such as the backflip. Like weight training, gymnastics confers similar strength benefits. A 2012 study published in “Osteoporosis International” found young, non-elite female gymnasts experienced “musculoskeletal benefits in upper limb bone geometry, strength and muscle function.”
Learning to Fly, Learning to Fall
Olympic gymnasts look like fighters out of a video game. Triple backflip somersault handstands into I don’t-know-what-I-just-saw, it seems the only thing they can’t do is throw a sonic boom or lightning bolt. Before they attempt advanced techniques, gymnasts cultivate balance in both the lower and upper body, working with balance beams and mastering a basic handstand. As an extension of their balance training, trial and error makes them experts in break falling: receiving and distributing force when they crash and burn. In your day-to-day life improved balance decreases the chance of a nasty tumble, while knowing how to break your falls reduces the risk of injury should a fall prove inevitable.
Seriously Social Athletes
Gymnastics expert Carl Paoli credits the sport for imbuing him with mental toughness. In particular, he cites consistency and positivity as essential virtues. Gymnastics is a high-skill sport, learning muscle-ups doesn’t happen overnight. Even though it’s an achievable goal for recreational athletes, it’s a process that can take years. You have to devote time to skill development in order to progress both skill and strength. Discouragement leads to burn out, so a gymnast needs a positive attitude to succeed at mastering the handstand, much less a complex floor routine. The aforementioned valuable social skills may also explain the academic success of college gymnasts as many teams maintain a GPA close to or above 3.0.
Although the repertoire of an elite gymnast is awe-inspiring, the true genius of the sport isn’t found in the techniques in and of themselves. Gymnastics is a sport offering a broad range of transferable skills to both your physical and mental life. The increased kinesthetic awareness means you have a smarter body. You’ll be better at learning new athletic skills, while remaining in tune with your environment on a daily basis. You’ll be strong, not just physically but mentally, too.
For more info on why gymnastics is great for your little, visit our Academic Treasures Page.