Health Benefits of Gymnastics, According to Science
11 Health Benefits of Gymnastics, According to Science
(+10 Tips for Beginners)
Registered Dietician based in New Zealand
Gymnastics is one of the best exercises for training for overall health and wellness. Multiple studies on this subject prove the importance of gymnastics for bone, muscle, and cognitive health. It’s not only about building muscle and improving flexibility, gymnasts make healthy lifestyle choices, are confident, and are able to make smart decisions to become successful adults.
Training your mind to feel happy and stress-free involves regular physical exercise. But boosting one’s cognitive and emotional state of mind requires a more intense and consistent training program. And that’s why gymnastics is so good for you! It helps build self-morale, determination, and better communication skills. It also improves quality of sleep, fights depression, and aids weight loss in the most effective way.
Participating in gymnastics from a younger age is important. It targets all muscle groups for total-body strength and flexibility. Plus, it fights a bunch of metabolic and immune disorders by lowering blood pressure and releasing antioxidant enzymes within the body.
With that out of the way, I found 11 science-backed health benefits of gymnastics for all of you! So it’s never too late to begin, right?
1. Learning Gymnastics Enhances The Body’s Complex Motor Skill
A recent study on the positive effects of gymnastics proved that doing complex gymnastics training on a daily basis can improve knowledge in performance and movement. This means it accelerates the body’s general motor skill for better mobility and posture.
Learning a motor skill as complex and elaborate as gymnastics has a profound effect on the body’s muscles and bones. It also enhances motor learning and effects other factors such as physical response and learning skills. So if you participate in gymnastics on a regular basis, it means you can learn better than those who don’t .
Such positive effects can also impact attention and communication. The study showed that gymnasts performing more complex training and trampoline exercises showed a higher percentage of motor learning skill than those who performed basic moves.
Hence, this study clearly indicated why learning progressing at complex sports such as gymnastics has a positive effect on your learning abilities and motor skills. It makes you more quick to respond physical and elevates your cognitive function to learn and understand faster.
Key Takeaway: Latest research suggests that learning complex gymnastic exercises can help you improve your performance motor skills. It also trains the mind to learn and communicate faster and better in challenging situations.
2. Doing Gymnastics Regularly Can Dramatically Increase Flexibility
You will come across a gymnast who’s not flexible. Because gymnastics consists of performing specific types of stunts and turns, improving flexibility is very important. That said, the bends and twists involved in gymnastics alleviates all types of muscle and joint stiffness.
So gymnasts can practice wide range of movements without injuring their joints and muscles. Young gymnasts are more flexible with stronger ligaments, tendons, and joints.
This means early participation in gymnastics can improve flexibility and prevent growth defects and fatigue . This review also shed light on how gymnastics improves gravity hold and posture, making it easier for gymnasts to practice balancing on beams and narrow bases.
Other stunts including forward kicks, leaps, splits, and side-kicks all depend on a gymnast’s flexibility. So practicing expert gymnastic training exercises consistently can dramatically improve your flexibility and relax your muscles to prevent any sort of serious injury during performance .
Key Takeaway: Flexibility is the ability to bend and stretch joints and muscles while performing supervised stunts. People with a higher range of flexibility are at a lower risk of getting injured during gymnastics practice than those with stiff muscles and joints. Hence, doing more gymnastics training helps improve flexibility and target all muscle groups in the body.
3. Participation In Gymnastics Can Build Proper Coordination And Balance
Increasing coordination and balance can help enhance body awareness and movement. If you practice gymnastics for long, you will be able to use different parts of your body in versatile ways. Not to mention, it improves overall body control and stability.
A recent review about the positive effects of gymnastics on children showed how increasing coordination can directly impact motor skills and body alertness. Training from a younger age can alleviate muscle tension and make your body feel more conscious and alive, a study suggests .
Any sort of organized sport, like gymnastics, can improve both speed and balance in children. Plus, it helps build the foundation of total-body strength and agility. More research has linked coordination with gymnastics to improve performance while carrying out somersaults, backflips, and beam balancing.
To improve coordination and balance, gymnasts perform sprints or side jumping jacks. This helps increase agility during tests and alleviate muscle sprains and other injuries.
Key Takeaway: Maximum coordination and balance are key to performing complex gymnastic training exercises. Gymnasts are consistently tested and trained to improve agility to perform better on the balance beam or for somersaults. This elevates the ability to control and balance the body against gravity.
4. Gymnasts Have A Better Sense Of Personal Control And Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is very important for gymnasts and athletes during performance. Believe it or not, gaining personal control and self-esteem is a common trait among gymnasts. They feel more self-aware and confident about their performance. So participating in gymnastics can improve your sense of self by training your mind to not be critical and over-perform during training.
Another impressive benefit of gymnastics is improved confidence and judgement. Being a good judge to your own performance skills is a good way to train harder and build muscle. This trait also makes you less nervous around other people’s criticism and judgement .
Another study by the University of Toronto showed how personal control and physical exercise go hand-in-hand for stellar performance. Young adults can gain internal focus and personal control by practicing highly-complex and challenging sports, including gymnastics .
This study included 30 female gymnasts between 11 and 17 years. The results showed that the girls with practicing higher performance sports reported a significantly high self-esteem and personal control.
Key Takeaway: A challenging exercise routine can apply to your innate personal traits such as personal control and self-confidence. Multiple reports have suggested that gymnasts who perform complex routines are less self-conscious and self-critical during performance.
5. Gymnastics Promote Healthy Cognitive Functioning
There’s a direct link between physical fitness and cognitive function. A latest study proved that agility training, circuit training, coordination, and other intense physical skills can dramatically impact cognitive markers.
These include reasoning skills, verbal communication, spatial ability, and inductive reasoning. All these are specific cerebral activities that determine a person’s overall cognitive health. These mechanisms also impact a person’s attention, learning, and memory skills .
The study focused on the cognitive differences between an elite sportsperson and amateur sportsperson. The results concluded that those who perform more challenging and complex exercise routines reported higher cognitive abilities than amateurs .
The last review on this subject explored the dynamics of cognitive health and physical performance for overall academic achievement. The result was that different parts of the brain such as the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are greatly influenced by physical performance. These are the parts responsible for better physical movement .
The cerebellum, one the other hand, coordinates proper physical movement. While the prefrontal cortex helps navigate and initiate better physical action to avoid injuries and errors.
Key Takeaway: Learning new and improved gymnastic moves can make your brain smarter according to multiple studies. It improves cognitive health by broadening memory, attention, reasoning, and learning skills. It also impacts certain areas of the brain responsible for physical movement and coordination.
6. Enhanced Gymnastic Training Can Improve Bone Health
Increasing bone mineral density without the need of any medication is one of the most effective treatments. Participating in gymnastics, on the other hand, also helps improves bone health and wellness.
Due to a number of factors, including age, bones tend to get thinner and lose most of their nutrients. This causes severe health problems such as osteoporosis, bone less, and bone fractures .
To strengthen bones and accelerate bone mineral density, regular participation in gymnastics is essential. A study showed that gymnastics training has a positive effect on bone health in girls. It improves bone geometry and resistance in girls. This study analyzed the bone health of 49 girls between 9 to 13 years of age.
According to the results, the group who performed intensive gymnastic training exercises had increased bone thickness and volumetric bone density. It also evaluated long-term bone mineral density thickness in female gymnasts during old age .
Another study on the same health effects of gymnastics proved that it accelerates lumbar bone mineral density after 27 weeks of intense training .
Key Takeaway: You can maximize bone health and strength by practicing more intense gymnastic exercises. Elite gymnasts showed increased lumbar support, bone mineral density, and tissue mass due to increased physical training.
7. Participation In Gymnastics Might Help You Lose Weight
Gymnasts who compete in tournaments have increased muscular strength with minimum body fat. Hence participating in gymnastics can dramatically burn calories and make the body’s muscles more toned and strong.
Because gymnasts follow a strict diet plan and train for hours in a day, the number of calories burned is higher. According to a recent review, gymnastics is considered a moderate fat-burning exercise routine. But it does promote steady weight loss if practiced consistently.
Throw in a healthy diet and persistent training, learning different gymnastics moves for weight loss is possible. Another important health benefit is that gymnastics promotes better body conditioning and toning. So when you increase your body’s flexibility, balance, and coordination, it automatically leads to faster weight loss .
Also, practicing gymnastics regularly can also curb unhealthy appetites and cravings. So you eat healthy and provide your body with nutrients that aid fat burning and muscle toning.
Key Takeaway: You can lose weight and become fit by focusing on practicing gymnastics on a day-to-day basis. It even encourages healthy eating habits to burn fat and increase muscular endurance.
8. Gymnastic Strength Training Can Positively Impact Muscle Health
A study on the effects of gymnastics on muscle health showed that long-term gymnastics training can improve muscle reflexes and muscle extension. If you’ve heard of hip extensions, you know what muscle extension is and how important it is for most adults.
But to sum it up, muscle extension is the movement that increases the angle between joints and bones. The opposite of this movement is known as muscle flexion.
The study evaluated 20 gymnasts and 20 non-athletes. The results showed that gymnasts had 30% higher muscle extension than non-athletes. It also concluded that better physical training programs for gymnasts can improve muscle reflexes and extensor muscle health for better performance .
The kind of muscle resistance you develop increases core strength and balance. And due to consistent practice involving stretches, the muscles are less likely to injure or sprain after a fall. This increases muscle endurance with long-term health benefits as you get older.
Key Takeaway: Gymnastics enhances the proper development and maintenance of the muscles in young gymnasts and adults. If you participate in gymnastics regularly, it will help tone all muscle groups and alleviate muscle soreness, stiffness, and pain.
9. Gymnastics Can Also Prevent And Treat Incorrect Body Posture
Gymnastics instills correct and healthy postural control. This is when you maintain an upright posture either while sitting or standing. Incorrect body posture seated or otherwise can often lead to fatigue and leg and back pain.
Certain activities including stretching, walking, and high-knees can promote proper posture control. With that in mind, a recent study proved how expertise in gymnastics is good for maintaining a healthy posture for most people.
The study involved 6 gymnasts and 6 athletes in non-gymnastics sports. Based on certain markers such as center of pressure and postural sway it was determined that gymnasts have better posture control than others .
Hence precision in sitting and standing in an upright posture may be corrected by participating in gymnastics. Anybody with an incorrect body posture can struggle to move around. Plus, it also impacts motor skills, increasing your chances of a fall without proper support .
Since gymnastics create better coordination and balance, posture control comes without doubt. It helps you walk better and sit for longer hours without experiencing any back or neck pain.
Key Takeaway: There is a definite link between gymnastics and posture control according to a recent study. The study concluded that gymnasts had a better sense of posture control than non-gymnastic athletes.
10. There Is A Clear Link Between Gymnastics And Depression
Modern science has always placed emphasis on reducing depression, anxiety, and stress with regular physical exercise. This time, based on multiple studies, participation in gymnastics can help combat depressive symptoms.
According to this study, long-term depression leads to neuro-endocrine secretion which impacts both mood, sleep, fitness, and overall health. A study on 156 depressed patients was carried out in three different groups. The first group focused on drug treatment and the second on sports-related exercise program. The last group focused on both drug treatment and exercise.
Based on the results, long-term continuation of physical exercise in depressed patients showed a significant improvement in psychological health. Since the body was stimulated by only physical factors, it caused a more natural psychological response and brain chemistry .
Another study focused on reducing depressive symptoms in elderly patients. According to the research conducted, participation in gymnastics can improve heart condition and autonomic system. This also impacts mood swings, stress, and a variety of psychiatric symptoms in elders .
In addition, the effects of regular gymnastics activity against the proliferation of depression came out positive in a similar study. This study focused on how physical exercise impacts the brain. It reduces endorphin abstinence which is a major contributor to restlessness, fatigue, irritability, etc. Lack of regular exercise can cause endorphin abstinence in both youngsters and adults .
Key Takeaway: These studies prove that gymnastics has a well-defined effect on mental health. It reduces signs of depression, promotes endorphin release, and is a safer alternative to drug treatment for long-term use.
11. Gymnastics Training For Pregnant Women Can Improve Sleep Quality
Pregnancy comes with a whole slew of problems including fatigue, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Based on recent studies, participating in gymnastics for healthy pregnant women can positively impact sleep disturbances.
A group of 132 pregnant women were divided into two groups. The first group participated in a moderate-level gymnastics training program while the second group had none. After a 10-week period, the participant’s pyscho-emotional status and sleeping patterns were taken into account.
The results showed there was a significant decrease in anxiety and stress status that is the psycho-emotional status of the first group. Also it reduced restless sleep, chronic tiredness, daytime sleepiness. While the second group with no participation in gymnastics showed no positive result at all .
This study also claims that healthy pregnant women can improve, if not prevent their psycho-emotional status by performing more training exercises similar to or gymnastics. This can directly affect sleep quality in most humans.
Pregnant women are increasingly falling victim to sleeplessness and daytime sleepiness. Participating in gymnastics is a clever way to incorporate a healthy lifestyle and prevent emotional disturbances that might lead to insomnia.
Key Takeaway: Gymnastics help induce a healthier sleeping pattern in pregnant women. It also promotes better psycho-emotional responses to fight off depression, mood swings, and anxiety levels.
Doing Them The Right Way – 10 Healthy Tips for Beginners
It’s no surprise that gymnastics is both a mentally and physically challenging sport. It focuses on body awareness, coordination, balance, and flexibility. So gymnasts train hard to build muscular strength and endurance without minimizing serious injuries.
You now know why gymnastics is so important for most people. It fights depression, increases bone mineral density, and promotes better mental and cognitive function.
So how to get started in gymnastics to reap all its health benefits?
Getting started with gymnastic routines:
Before I list all the important gymnastic skills to look forward to, it’s important to pick a gymnastics class that fits your age group. If you’re starting off late, it’s better to first attend a few gymnastics training programs. This will help you determine your physical abilities, strength, and flexibility. And it also helps you decide what you need to work on the most.
The floor is where it all starts. It involves basic gymnastic skills including balance and body strength. If you hold your ground, you then progress to more complex floor movements. Elite gymnasts master the basic floor moves like handstands, rolls, cartwheels, and somersaults. These are trained and performed on a standard mat or spring floor to avoid injuries or sprains.
Practicing on the beam involves better body movement and coordination. A beam is a made up of leather material, usually 4 inches wide. Female gymnasts often develop different gymnastic skills including tap swing and stride circle. The more complicated gymnastic movements on the beam are handstand, piked Jager, straddle back, and many more.
The vaulting table is where are complex skills are practiced. But for beginners, it involves more basic skills like handstands and straddles. Working your way towards complex vault movements requires muscular strength, flexibility, and better balance. It also means to “stick the landing” in a professional and precise manner.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at a few important fitness tips for beginners. This will help you get started with gymnastics in a healthy and injury-free manner.
1. Stick To A Schedule
Any gymnast would tell you how important it is to stick to a proper gymnastic training framework. As per expert recommendation, training 3 times a week is ideal for beginners to target all muscle groups. Each day focuses on a different training program starting from low-intensity, medium-weight intensity, to high intensity sessions.
Such versatile training programs can build up better physical endurance and flexibility for beginners. Also it offers you a day’s rest after every session for faster recovery .
2. Get The Basics Right
As with any other sport, learning the basic moves is critical for training. Since gymnastics is a sport of flexibility, strength, and agility, it’s important to master the basics before moving forward to more complex moves.
Based on a scientific review, building upper-body strength is necessary. Beginners can work on that with basic push-ups. There are different variations of doing a basic push-up. So you can increase the number of reps each week as you get stronger.
Doing a frog-stand to develop balancing skills and target core muscles is next. To master this basic, you need to squat with your hands on the floor. It’s important to lead forward while lifting your legs and touching the knees to the elbows. Hold this position for about 30 seconds to master a frog-stand.
Other basic moves include a handstand and somersault .
3. It’s Important To Learn The Rules
Gymnasts don’t take rules lightly. For accurate performance, especially on a competitive level, following the rules is critical. That’s why beginners are first taught the important rules of gymnastics before training begins. Following these general rules help gymnasts hit higher scores and follow the routine effectively.
For example, at the time of competition, skills such as balance beam and floor come with strict time limits. If a gymnast exceeds the prescribed time limit, it leads to a score deduction. Other additional rules are proper conduct, body position, etc .
4. Stretch Before And After Your Training
Stretching for flexibility and stretching for injury prevention are two different things. Most people give least importance to stretching for injury prevention.
According to a recent study, stretching before and after gymnastics training has positive neural and performance benefits. It helps in relaxing all muscle groups to reduce muscle stiffness and cramps. Also, an increase in stretching leads to a significant increase in range of motion and balance.
Stretching is important to boost strength and prevent fatigue caused by high-intensity workouts. Gymnasts who stretch for injury prevention also reported better muscle strength and reduced muscle stiffness after training. This can also prevent frequent muscle tears and knee problems .
5. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand for athletes and gymnasts. It’s important to get enough sleep for proper training, especially when you want to make progress. For gymnastics training, beginners need extra sleep to reduce stress on the muscles and bones. It also helps in recovery for muscle soreness, especially after the first few sessions.
That said, beginners should train during evenings that is neither too early in the morning nor too late. If you train during your early waking hours, it can cause tiredness throughout the day. While training too late can leave you with very little body strength to train with [25, 26].
So as beginners, giving your body complete rest and recovery by training in the evenings is easier to recover from.
6. Don’t Forget To Wear Protective Gear
There are many ways to injure when practicing gymnastics. Floor exercises causes the most injuries, according to a recent study. But amateurs can hurt themselves by falling off the beam or other sports equipment too.
The most common injuries are ligament tears, bone fracture, muscle sprain, and back problems. So in order to stay protected, wearing wrist straps, grips, spotting belts, and guards are essential. Proper footwear is also critical to prevent ankle injuries.
Wearing wrist guards and grips prevent blisters and skin tears, especially during amateur training. Since the outer layer of the skin is not used to such challenging movements, it can cause serious injections if you act irresponsibly .
7. Practice Gymnastics After Eating
It’s important you eat a proper meal before training. It meets the body’s demand for a healthy, filling, and immune-boosting meal. That said, gymnasts incorporate smaller meals that are high in energy to control their weight and increase muscular strength. So during heavy training, fatigue and dizziness is out of the question.
Eating energy bars, cereal, toast, or dried fruits before training is also healthy. And during training, drinking carbohydrate-rich fluids can prevent weakness and build stamina .
8. Make Sure To Stay Hydrated
Dehydration, according to a recent report, can cause many health concerns on sports performance. It leads to decreased blood flow, heat dissipation, and sweat rate during exercise. These factors contribute to many illnesses including immune-related diseases.
So for maximum physical performance, drinking sufficient amounts of water during the day is important. It also affects your mood and concentration during gymnastics training. With dehydrated muscles, your blood pressure drops, heart rate increases, and there’s not enough fuel to power your body. This leads to more fluid loss and fatigue.
Preparing for a gymnastics meet includes drinking small amounts of water every 15-30 minutes or so before, during, and after training .
9. Eat A Healthy Diet
Your body requires proper nutrients for energy production and boosting stamina. Gymnasts, on the one hand, require high calorie intake to avoid tiredness, fatigue, and sluggishness. Other important nutrients include macronutrients such as carbs, protein, and fats.
Foods such as oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and vegetables are considered high-energy foods for a gymnast. It helps in proper fiber and protein absorption. While lean protein meals consisting of eggs, chicken, and lean beef also boost energy during training .
Lack of proper nutrition can cause immune suppression which is characterized by an increase in stress hormones in the body. Longer recovery is also a partly responsible for lack of nutrition in the body .
10. Don’t Stress Yourself Out
Did you know stress can affect sports performance causing high blood pressure, fear, and shortness of breath? Increased anxiety during physical performance can even cause serious muscle spasms and soreness.
A recent report on anxiety and sports performance determined that high stress levels disrupt concentration for more advanced skills in gymnastics. It can seriously impact a wide range of gymnastic skills such as handstands, somersaults, and other basic moves.
Beginners often fall and release lots of perspiration due to high stress levels during performance. So staying calm is critical to stellar gymnastics performance .
Wrapping It Up
Knowing how well gymnastics can affect the human body is critical to sports performance. Many youngsters and elders are participating in this sport to build muscular strength and flexibility. An important aspect of gymnastics is a healthy sleeping and eating habit. If you do this, you feed your body enough nutrients to stay energetic.
Since gymnastics is a challenging sport, treating the mind and body is critical for good performance. That being said, if you have the time to practice gymnastics at least 3 times a week, it’s something to look forward to. Learning all the different gymnastic skills and routines requires flexibility and body coordination. And you can definitely achieve all this with consistent athletic and gymnastic training.
So are you ready to work on your body by participating in gymnastics?
by Jacky Miller