4 COMMON GYMNASTICS MYTHS

US GLOVE

Every four years, the Summer Olympics vaults the gymnastics into popular culture. We sit in awe in our living rooms and in sports bars as world-class athletes spring, tumble, and flip their way toward their medals and heartbreaks.

Suddenly, our families, friends, and neighbors who previously couldn’t tell the difference between an aerial and an arabesque believe they’re more expert than the gymnastics commentators and judges. Whether we have memories of Mary Lou in ‘84 or Simone Biles in ‘16, gymnastics is the Summer Olympics event.

But seeing the sport at only such an elite level creates a lot of popular myths and misconceptions about gymnastics. These athletes seem to come from another realm, taken at birth to be molded into Olympians, to perform super-human feats in an athletic world completely inaccessible to most people. We are told that allowing our children to pursue the sport will stunt their growth and cause eating disorders.

Let’s break down some of the myths that could keep someone away from what could be a rich and rewarding pursuit.

1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OLYMPICS

There’s a popular misconception that a shot at an Olympic medal is the end-all, be-all in the career of a competitive gymnast.

While it’s true that the allure of representing your nation on the world’s largest stage inspires elite athletes of almost any sport, the four year wait between Olympic competitions compared with the relatively short career window of a competitive gymnast makes an Olympic victory an impractical measure of success.

Women gymnasts tend to peak between the ages of 16 to 22, while men peak between 17 to 25. Given this narrow span of peak performance, a world-class gymnast may have only one shot at qualifying for an Olympic team.

Due to poor timing or poor luck, many of the world’s greatest gymnasts may never see an Olympics. Fortunately, there are a slew of national and international competitions (such as the FIG World Cup and the World Games) in which elite and level 10 gymnasts can compete and earn their accolades.

For many world-class gymnasts, even at the Olympic level, the ultimate goal of a career in gymnastics is to compete in the NCAA. The emphasis on team and comradery, along with the elite competition, makes for an alluring pinnacle to a rewarding career, of which an Olympic medal is a nice feather in the cap.

For the non-elite and recreational gymnast, there are plenty of regional, local, and community clubs and competitions that can lead to a thrilling career. 

2. YOU MUST START YOUNG

It is true that most world-class, competitive gymnasts begin training at around two years old.

Two is considered an ideal age because toddlers have a natural inclination toward tumbling and have yet to develop a fear of falling. A child reaches their peak flexibility at the age of 8, so trainers consider between two and eight the optimal time to learn and internalize the moves, leaps, and poses that form the core techniques of gymnastics.

That being said, some world-class gymnasts start as late as 12. For a competitive career that peaks in the late teens, 12 is about the upper limit to begin, but it is never too late to begin training recreationally.

Gymnastics, as a training regimen, offers athletes an intensive way to hone the strength, flexibility, and coordination needed to be their best at any sport. It’s a great complement to other sports because it teaches balance, builds core strength, and develops body control and explosiveness. For an adult looking to be more physically active, you may never land a double salto dismount, but you might be surprised by what your body can do.

3. GYMNASTICS WILL STUNT A CHILD’S GROWTH

This has long been a chicken or the egg debate in the world of sports. Glancing at the 2016 U.S Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team, ranging in height from 4’8” to 5’2”, one must conclude that world-class gymnasts tend to be petite.

Is it the impact of rigorous training on a developing body that keeps them short, or do naturally small-statured people tend to excel at gymnastics?

Being petite certainly offers some clear competitive advantages to a gymnast. A smaller stature means a higher power to weight ratio, with easier and more graceful leaps and launches. Being small also means a more compact axis of rotation, aiding with aerial spins and turns.

Given these advantages, it shouldn’t be surprising that elite gymnasts tend to be short. One may as well wonder if practicing basketball will make a child grow tall.

Inconclusive studies have shown that the rigorous level of training required of elite level athletes may slightly delay growth and maturation, but this growth is generally made up later, with no lasting impact on adult height. Even these mild concerns pertain only to children training at an elite level.

Unless a gymnast is training for world class competition, there is no need to worry about stunted growth. 

4. GYMNASTICS CAN LEAD TO EATING DISORDERS

Athletes of any sport, especially at the highest, most competitive levels, are at increased risk of developing eating disorders. Women are at greater risk than men, particularly in sports that emphasize weight or appearance, such as running, swimming, figure skating, and gymnastics.

Of the various “myths” we have addressed so far, this is of the greatest concern and has the largest potential grain of truth. A complex mix of cultural, personal, and hereditary factors cause eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but the intense psychological and bodily pressures put on adolescent girls and boys at the elite competitive level make them easy prey to these diseases.

Awareness and education about these disorders are the best defense against them, along with assuring that young athletes are in the care of coaches, trainers, and mentors who understand the risks and warning signs, and who put the health of the athlete ahead of all other considerations. 

DON’T LET THE MYTHS KEEP YOU FROM GYMNASTICS

Whether you’re a new gymnast or the parent of a new gymnast, don’t let the myths get in the way of a fantastic and enjoyable sport.

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What are the Benefits of Gymnastics?

Benefits of gymnastics include both physical and mental aspects.  The physical benefits, including flexibility, balance, and muscular strength are easiest to see.  However, the feats of strength that young athletes accomplish require disciplined training over an extended period of time. Let’s look at some of the most important benefits gymnastics offers.

The Top 5 Benefits of Gymnastics

  • Gymnastics fuels the brain and body for learning.  The sport encompasses each essential movement necessary for development on The Kinetic Scale.
  • Children in gymnastics learn social skills.  The benefits of gymnastics sprawl into the classroom.  Listening to instructions, taking turns, respecting authority, building friendships, and learning to work independently are all benefits of gymnastics.
  • Gymnasts learn work ethic. Gymnastics skills take time and repetition to master.  Also, gymnasts must condition physically and mentally to prepare for the proper execution of skills.
  • Gymnastics improves self esteem.
  • There are many physical health benefits of gymnastics.

Benefit of Gymnastics: The Kinetic Scale

benefits of gymnastics

Body and spatial awareness are key elements of gymnastics classes.  Kids learn the difference between tight and loose muscles.  They learn where to stand to provide for a safe class environment.  For example, some children struggle to land on their feet doing a backward roll.  Coaches may tap the bottom of the student’s feet to teach them where their feet are.  As a result, this makes landing on the feet easier for young athletes.

Coordination involves crossing the midline and discovering handedness.  Gymnasts are taught to use both sides of their bodies.  “Favorite side” and “not favorite side” cartwheels are taught.  One hand is typically identified dominant.  Also, athletes are taught bear crawls, log rolls, and many other skills that allow athletes to cross the midline furthering development.

Benefit of Gymnastics: Social Skills

Gymnasts develop friendships in gymnastics classes.  They are able to form bonds outside of school or the neighborhood and in a neutral environment.  These friendships develop rapidly as athletes learn to encourage one another, become partners, and cheer each other on through new skills.

Also, as gymnasts age, gymnastics teams become a second family.  Having these connections in a healthy environment reduces the risk of drug and alcohol abuse.

Benefit of Gymnastics: Work Ethic

The sport of gymnastics is challenging.  While many people can walk outside and shoot a basketball or pass a soccer ball, few can execute a proper cartwheel.  Gymnastics takes time to develop skills.  It takes even more time to perfect them.  Gymnasts are taught to try and try again.  “You have to get it wrong to get it right” is a common gymnastics saying.

Mistakes are a welcome part of the sport as rarely is an athlete able to execute a skill correctly on the first try.  Also relevant, gymnasts learn to repeat drills, conditioning, and skills in an effort to improve them each time.  Therefore, gymnasts learn that dedication to sport, perseverance through adversity, and hard work eventually pay off.

Benefit of Gymnastics: Improved Self-Esteem

benefits of gymnastics

The results of a Robert Wood Medical School research study shows that for children ages 10 to 16 (particularly preteen girls), the more time spent being physically active, the higher their self-esteem and self-efficacy are. Gymnastics provides weekly activity for youth.  Some youth practice only one hour a week, while others begin competitive teams that practice 6, 12 or more hours per week.  This activity is extremely beneficial to developing youth.

In addition, children are encouraged by coaches.  They begin to accomplish feats they may not have thought possible.  Moreover, gymnasts feel success and excitement when they learn new skills.  This leads to increased belief in one’s self.

Benefit of Gymnastics: Physical Health

The physical benefits of gymnastics are perhaps the most obvious. Gymnasts practice flexibility, muscular strength, and muscular endurance each class.  These skills improve bone health and delay the development of high blood pressure.  Living a healthy lifestyle sets children up for a promising future.  Those that make gymnastics a part of their routine not only benefit from the physical aspects of gymnastics, but also enjoy the aforementioned mental benefits.

Lastly, gymnastics sets a pattern for regular exercise.  Hopefully, this pattern carries on throughout the child’s life and into adulthood.  We hope you consider making gymnastics a part of your weekly routine!

Is Your Child on Track?

Check out the Movement Can-Do chart here for a list of suggested movement milestones by age.

Original Post By Pinnacle Gymnastics

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10 Amazing Benefits of Gymnastics for Toddlers

The benefits of gymnastics for toddlers are truly amazing! Toddlers are extremely impressionable – and energetic! It really is the best time to teach them healthy and social behaviors that can help shape the rest of their lives.

Here are 10 amazing benefits your toddler will get from gymnastics:

1. Gymnastics Develops Cognitive Skills

Learning and completing a gymnastic routine requires the use of the mind as well as the body. The left brain and right brain have to work in concert, so your toddler’s body awareness and spatial awareness will improve.

This really helps them become aware of the  world around them and dapt better to it.

2. Develop Strong and Healthy Bones

Gymnastics is a weight-bearing activity which can develop strong and healthy bones. As we age, we experience a loss of bone density over the years. By building strong and healthy bones earlier, we can reduce the signs of osteoporosis later in life.

Furthermore, it helps to prevent broken bones as your child grows older and becomes more active. A great bonus when on the playground and playing sports!

3. Gymnastics Aids In Strength Development!

toddler gymnastic benefits

Along with the development of strong and healthy bones, your toddler will build up their total body strength as well.

By performing the body strengthening exercises that gymnastics requires, your child will build up their upper body, lower body, and overall core strength.

4. Increased Coordination

Your toddler’s coordination will greatly improve through being part of a gymnastic program.earning alignment skills that include standing, walking and jumping will improve their coordination. This will make your child appear less clumsy and

They will learn alignment skills that include standing, walking and jumping through a variety of fun exercises. This will make your child appear less clumsy and be more agile for other future sports.

5. Improved Flexibility

Gymnastics is all about flexibility. When you increase your flexibility, you decrease your chances of injury.

Being super-flexible as a child will often carry forward with them later into life. This can help support proper body posture as they age, which will deter back and spine problems as they get older.

6. Meet Their Daily Exercise Needs

toddlers bouncing

The American Heart Association says that it is important for a child to get at least 1 hour of physical activity every day. Participation in a gymnastics class will ensure that your child gets his or her exercise on class days.

|Furthermore, they will want to practice their gymnastic skills on off-days, so they can still meet their daily exercise needs then as well!

7. Prevent Diseases

Sports like gymnastics aid in disease prevention by promoting and maintaining a strong and healthy body.

This is the key to preventing diseases later in life such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer ─ among others. By teaching your toddler healthy behaviors early in life, they will more likely keep these habits later in life.

8. Gymnastics Helps To Create Discipline!

Gymnastic classes will help provide discipline and self-control for your toddler.

Learning discipline and self-control are both valuable skills to take with you into life. When a child learns discipline and self-control at an early age, they learn to work with others, work by themselves, to stay on task and to accomplish tasks.

Toddlers who learn these skills will use them in school, the workplace and in almost every social setting they will ever find themselves in.

9. Early Gymnastic Classes Increase Self-Esteem!

gymnastics3

Gymnastics is a sport of self-control and mastering self-control ultimately leads to improved self-esteem.

Learning and successfully completing a gymnastics routine creates the sense of accomplishment, which in turn supports self-esteem. Your child will learn from an early age that hard work and practice pays off – key life skills!

It is also a sport of showing off your skills in front of a live audience. Starting early before a child has had a chance to develop “stage fright” can help later in life with performing in front of people.

10. It’s Fun!

Your toddler will really enjoy being part of a gymnastics class. They will improve their social skills by interacting with their class and coaches. And they will get some great exercise at the same time!

Finding activities that are fun, hold our toddler’s attention and are healthy is a difficult task! Fortunately, a good gymnastic program can provide all this and more. And, just think… you never know ─ you might just have an Olympic athlete on your hands!

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