Gymnastics Makes You Smart | Brain-Body Connection

Gymnastics - The Brain-Body Connection

Reason to Flip!  It’s a universal urge we all have as children.  The best part is that play increases brainpower because of the brain-body connection.  With today’s technology dominated world, it is more important than ever to encourage our children to play and move throughout their day.  Physical activity not only increases our physical skills, but it increases our complex neurological wiring matrix to increase the power of our thinking, creativity, balance and spacial awareness. Gymnastics boosts brainpower and, as a pure movement sport, is one of the best activities to enhance cognitive skills.  The following activities found in any good gymnastics program are all examples of the brain-body connection of a well rounded movement education program.

Brain-Body Connection

Swinging:  Gives children the ability to hold their own body weight, as well as increases the neurons firing in the brain to open up areas of learning and increased brainpower.  This brain-body connection is what stimulates the brain cells to grow and connect with each other in complex ways.

Rotating:  The body can rotate on one of three axis; these are spinning in place, rolling and lateral rotation such as a cartwheel movement.  Lateral movement stimulates the neural pathways that increase children’s ability to understand complex skills such as reading, and all these rotations stimulate the vestibular system that aids in balance.

Inversion:  Because your brain is the largest consumer of oxygen in the body, inversion skills such as handstands and cartwheels, not only increase circulation and lymph flow, but it helps in boosting the brain function by increasing blood flow and balancing hormones that decrease symptoms of depression.  When sitting or standing, your heart must pump blood up, against gravity, towards your brain. When in an inverted position, the forces of gravity on blood flowing to your brain are reduced, lessening the work of your heart and making it easier to pump oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your brain. By improving circulation to your brain cognitive decline during aging, according to studies, can possibly be reduced.

Jumping:  Current research indicates the need for movement in the learning process and exercises like jumping prepare the brain for optimal learning by raising the heart rate to get more nutrient rich oxygen to the brain and heightening alertness and mental focus.  Additionally, spacial awareness and mental alertness is increased by a strengthened vestibular system due to jumping movements such as jumping rope.  The rhythmic pattern of jumping rope can also also simulate the natural rhythm patterns of our language that need to be established to acquire better language skills.

Balance Beam:  Eye tracking movements such as focusing on an object or the end of a balance beam while performing additional movement related activities strengthens the vestibular system as well, and serves to help us control vision and modify and coordinate information received from other body systems.  The increased spacial awareness from this improved system brings way to better sequencing of information a more organized thought process.

All in all, a good, well-rounded gymnastics movement education programs can enhance the brain and the body in many ways.  A physically fit, healthy body learns better and thinks better.  In addition, cognitive reinforcement is done by using multi-sensory techniques through different balance beam activities, tumbling activities on floor exercise, swinging activities on uneven bar exercises and jumping activities during vaulting exercises.  By participating in a gymnastics program early in life, children can satisfy their talents, learning styles and intelligence.  Now that’s a reason to flip!

Article Credit: Patti Komora, Author, Tumblebear Connection