Gymnastics : From training Greek soldiers to your new exercise

artistic gymnastics
(Photos: Envato Elements)
In Ancient Greece, this sport was developed by a former soldier aiming to train the youth into fighting shape. It was rigorous and sought to prepare them physically and mentally for warfare. This sport later became known as gymnastics.اضافة اعلان

Gymnastics is an exercise that develops and displays physical agility and coordination. It is a diverse sport, and some of the world's greatest athletes participate in it.

There are six official categories of gymnastics: artistic, rhythmic, trampoline, power tumbling, acrobatics, and aerobics. The gymnastics commonly seen at the Olympics include artistic, rhythmic, and trampoline gymnastics.

Artistic gymnastics — the most common form worldwide — may be the most traditional form that comes to mind, including events on the vault, bars, and balance beams. Rhythmic gymnastics, which currently only allows female participants, consists of jumps, leaps, and tosses using items such as rope, hoop, ribbon, ball, and clubs. Trampoline gymnastics consists of high-flying jumps and twists and performing skills while jumping up to eight meters in the air.

Why choose gymnastics?
With numerous positive effects on mental and physical health, many athletes train in gymnastics alongside their main sport to further improve their performance. Millions of people worldwide are reaping the life-long benefits that gymnastics offers. When done safely, under trained supervision, gymnastics can be one of the best sports for everyday physical health.

Flexibility and balance
The most obvious benefit of gymnastics is the incredible improvement in flexibility and balance. Outside of allowing athletes to perform thrilling flips and round-offs, increased flexibility is a great asset to healthy bones, joints, and proper posture.
When done safely, under trained supervision, gymnastics can be one of the best sports for everyday physical health.
Postural disorders are most common in children during critical periods of growth and development. According to a 2016 study comparing primary school children who engage in gymnastics and those who do not, there is a significant difference in the incidence of postural disorders such as left chest scoliosis in those who do not practice the sport.

Another study comparing expert gymnasts to expert athletes of other sports set out to determine whether or not gymnasts had superior postural control (i.e., balance) and showed that although both groups had comparable performance in normal balancing tasks, the expert gymnasts proved to be significantly better at maintaining proper balance and minimizing postural sway when destabilized in other ways such as removing vision.

Unlike the other athletes, gymnasts could use their other senses to maintain stability, even while blindfolded.

These findings indicate life-long benefits superior to those of other athletes in terms of posture, balance, joint, and spinal health. As we age, these factors become increasingly relevant as they become the cause of chronic pain and, for many, may lead to death as the elderly have an increased risk of fatal injuries from falling.

Bone health 
Like our muscles, our bones can also be trained and strengthened through exercise. A 2010 study of the bone health of girls aged 9–13 showed that those who participated in gymnastics had increased thickening of the bone and bone strength. The findings of this study showed that training in rhythmic gymnastics could significantly improve bone health in adolescent girls.

These benefits are important given that osteoporosis traits start in childhood. The study's author even went on to speculate that if girls continue their gymnastic training beyond adolescence, even if their training is less intensive, they may have a reduced risk of bone fracture later in life.

A similar 2016 study was conducted on female university students comparing bone mineral density (BMD) of gymnasts to non-gymnasts. The gymnasts had significantly higher mean lumbar (i.e., backbones) and femoral neck (i.e., thigh bones) BMDs than non-gymnasts.

These results further prove that gymnastics can help build bone density, decrease fractures, and reinforce spine strength for better posture and less back pain. Furthermore, although most studies center on female participants, there is no reason to believe that these benefits would not also apply to males.

General muscle strength 
If you have ever seen gymnasts such as Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, you might have noticed that gymnastics is a great sport in terms of muscle building.

Unlike traditional bodybuilding, gymnastics uses the power of your own body weight to build your physique. It benefits your core and builds the legs and arms, which helps launch athletes in the air and supports balance.

This holistic exercise leads to a more natural form that aids everyday activities, even just standing up straight and walking for longer without pain, carrying heavy bags, and walking up the stairs.

Self-esteem and anxiety 
Unlike most sports, in gymnastics, you are judged by a panel that inspects every small movement and determine a score. This is a source of mental stress for the many adolescents in the sport. However, as part of the competition’s training, the athletes will learn not to let their worth as performers and humans be determined by a score.

A study from the University of Toronto concluded that adolescents could develop personal control, gain internal focus, and have higher self-esteem by practicing highly complex and challenging sports, such as gymnastics.

The more a gymnast competes, the more they will be able to overcome performance anxiety and develop mechanisms of coping with feelings of self-doubt. Furthermore, gymnastics is a unique and useful sport that can increase confidence in one's skills and individuality. Having a hobby to be passionate about also enhances your sense of purpose. 

Like most exercises, gymnastics can also boost mood by releasing endorphins which are naturally produced chemicals in the brain that fight stress, anxiety, and pain. During training, athletes may experience a sort of high due to these chemicals, which has effects lasting even in rest.
Gymnastics is a unique and useful sport that can increase confidence in one’s skills and individuality.
Exercise, like gymnastics, can encourage a general sense of well-being even when not actively exercising. A 2015 study of the influence of gymnastics on geriatric depression concluded that a regimen of gymnastics three times a week reduces depression in elderly individuals.

Cognitive ability
As you develop your muscles, you also develop what controls your muscles: your brain.

A 2012 study examined the relationship between physical prowess and cognitive function by comparing elite and amateur gymnasts. The elite gymnasts showed a significantly superior cognitive ability in terms of spatial ability, reasoning, numerical ability, inductive reasoning, and verbal comprehension compared to amateurs.

Practicing gymnastics helps train your mind and can potentially be beneficial in preventing age-related cognitive decline.

Gymnastics in Jordan
Gymnastics is a sport for everyone. In Jordan, many places such as Atlantis Gymnastics Academy in Al-Rawabi, Amman, and Flex Fitness Center in Khalda have great programs for all ranges of abilities.

It is never too late to start, and any level of intensity will surely improve our life positively.

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