We may wonder why we put so much emphasis on developing gymnastics skills beyond what is required for a PE lesson or further for the few with competitive potential. Just what are the benefits of encouraging children to progress with gym? Well, there’s a lot that we might not think about when it comes to the effects of gym and improvement in gymnastic ability. Regular participation can go far beyond the balance beam!
The more obvious, wider effects of gymnastics that might come to mind first are the physical benefits although even these might go beyond what we would normally expect. Gymnastics is known to improve flexibility and coordination, yet it’s not only the case that this is great because they transfer into other sports; they are also crucial in daily life. Improving these areas allows children to be better at avoiding hazardous situations as their spatial awareness and ability to react are enhanced and can prevent harm where injurious movement cycles can be better avoided. Another more surprising benefit is the impact that gymnastics can have on joint and bone health; weight bearing activities, such as gymnastics, provide long term benefits for these. And, of course, along with gymnastics come all of the benefits of physical activity: improved cardiovascular fitness, muscular development and the encouragement of a healthier lifestyle. The fun and engagement children get from gymnastics is further enhanced since they look forward to their PE lessons and thus motivated to get more active.
However, the benefits of gymnastics stretch beyond the physical. There are some things we might think would be improved in passing, but we cannot underestimate their importance. Working in partners for counter balancing and other team activities is crucial for developing teamwork and problem solving skills and getting the social and cognitive cogs turning. Gymnastics is also fantastic for building resilience. Imagine how much effort, concentration and patience it takes to master a difficult skill starting from the roots, the core fundamental skills, to branching out into the exciting movement patterns that children initially want to master straightaway. And when they do, think of the effect this has on a child’s confidence; they know that they can achieve, even if they find it difficult at first, and this knowledge and self-esteem boost comes back into the classroom. Gymnastics can also enliven children’s imaginations. Consider how creative they have to be to come up with different ways to walk a balance beam, balance on one leg, or to change shape when playing games like Dice Frenzy.
These are just a FEW of the benefits of gymnastics and they get even more exciting than this! Think gymnastics to explain physics and some studies even suggest a direct correlation between regular gymnastics and improvement in literacy and numeracy. What this all shows, is how brilliant gymnastics can be in developing the whole child and, therefore, how important it is that we get it right and make sure ALL children are engaged, motivated and having fun. If we want real benefits, then we need real gym.