It’s no secret that children are naturally more limber than adults, but does that mean gymnastics are off-limits to grown-ups? Absolutely not! There are a number of reasons we old-folks should consider incorporating some gymnastics into our workouts.
First of all, and perhaps most importantly, gymnastics are just fun. Remember vaulting over the back of the couch in the family room when you were young? Maybe using your mattress as a trampoline or tumbling mat? It was called “play” back then. We laughed, took risks that were maybe a little stupid, and had a great time. The active lifestyle of a kid is something we’d do well to emulate today, and that doesn’t mean doing a grueling, unenjoyable workout for an hour everyday – it can mean just playing. And we all know that we’re more likely to stick with something if we enjoy it.
Learning something new later in life is always a good thing simply because of the mental challenge it presents. But learning gymnastics as an adult offers even more. As we age, our joints and muscles become tighter and can lead to a general stiffening of movement. Playful tumbling and intentional stretching for gymnastics prevent that tightening and help prevent injury. Gymnastics also focuses us on balance and control, two things that silently creep away from us as we age. Too many broken hips are the result of unsteadiness and stiffness. A workout (play date?) that focuses on balance and control can help offset those unwelcome injuries years down the road.
If you’ve never done gymnastics before, you’ll find an increase in strength as you begin, too. Tumbling uses muscles you probably didn’t remember you had! Because gymnastics are body-weight driven, you’ll most likely also experience an increase in bone density – an especially excellent benefit for women. But for anyone who chooses to give it a try, balancing and supporting your own body weight in new positions will challenge muscles that have been just hanging out for awhile and give them a reason to loosen and strengthen.
That said, you should begin your new tumbling exercises safely. As adults, we’ve sustained more injuries than kids, and we’re far less resilient. Forget the mattress and couch cushions. Use some supportive, soft tumbling mats to make sure your tumbling routines are safe enough to allow you to practice as long as you’d like. Gymnastics are a great way to add a new dimension to your fitness routine and to let that inner kid in you out to play for awhile.