How high can you jump?

O-Blog-Jumping
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I’ve been a gymnastics coach for over 12 years and I’ve always said that it’s a really special sport because it encompasses a lot of areas of physical activity in a day to day practice that a lot of other sports merely touch on. Balance, coordination, the use of stabilizer muscles, grip strength and body awareness are just a few. Because of this, gymnastics is not only an incredible sport in itself, but also a fantastic foundation for other sports, physical activity, and well, life.

A study done by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute recently found that children cannot jump as far as they used to. Thirty years ago an 11/12 year old child, male or female, could jump 1.5m from standing. That figure is now 1.3m. At first glance that may not seem like a huge drop, but this figure has health experts worried because it signifies poor muscle growth and development. 

There have been a lot of fingers pointed at the decrease of free play time and the increase of screen use as to why this figure is going the wrong way. I think it’s safe to say we have all been struggling a little bit during this pandemic, to keep balance and control in our lives (and I don’t even have kids, props to all of you parents!), but the one thing that we all have control over is our own bodies. Dr. Melissa Wake from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute speaks about the study and adds that there is not a “magic bullet” on tackling health, but if there was, it would be physical activity.

Getting kids into a routine of movement and physical activity when they are young leads to a higher chance of them continuing as adults. It improves physical and mental health and reduces the risk for health complications later in life. There are no negative outcomes from doing physical activity, but the positive outcomes are endless. 

Gymnastics in particular is a fantastic starting point because it can be done at any age. From 2 years to adulthood, there is something for everyone. For kids under 5 in particular it can be difficult to find a sport that touches on so many basics, many that you may not even realize are important! Balancing, coordination, being upside down to learn spatial awareness, core strength, swinging, grip strength and more. These basics and skills grow with children into adulthood and are not something that disappear. Muscle memory holds onto these skills throughout a lifetime, they may just need to be dusted off from time to time.

In all of my years coaching I have seen many of my competitive and recreational gymnasts grow up to be successful in other sports such as cheerleading, dance, soccer, weightlifting, hockey (I’m Canadian), and more. I truly believe that gymnastics is a foundation for every other sport out there, because it is so specific in its nature and spends so much time on the details. Through fun drills and activities children learn how to use their muscles properly and how to understand where their body is in space, and they don’t even realize it! They’re just having fun.

As a long term coach and ex-competitive gymnast myself, I only started to realize the long term benefits of my gymnastics training when I reached adulthood. When I workout or do physical activity with my friends there is a noticeable difference between things like my coordination, balance, and core strength compared to them. It’s not that they aren’t physically fit, and I’m not talking about having a 6 pack of abs, but the overall strength in my core because of the inner stabilizer muscles that worked so hard for many years when I was a gymnast, are still working for me today. I definitely wouldn’t call myself an athlete anymore, but my athletic abilities are still intact because of the development and work I put in as a kid, and it doesn’t take much to wake them up and get going again.

I’ve been involved in this sport for most of my life. My mother is a coach and the owner of her gym back home in Canada, all of my siblings have done competitive gymnastics as well, so I basically grew up in the gym. I have gone out and tried jobs in other fields, but I always come back to the gym. This sport is so intricate and specific, but it is so much fun both as a gymnast and a coach. I may be a bit biased because gymnastics means a lot to me, but there’s no denying that it is beneficial for participants in many ways. It is physically and mentally challenging at times, but it is also extremely physically and mentally rewarding. Seeing a child’s face when they finally achieve that skill they’ve been working so hard on has been my favourite thing about the job for a long time, and it’s why we keep coming back. 

So who’s ready to get jumping??

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