A physically and mentally demanding sport, gymnastics emphasizes skill, coordination, balance and precision. Gymnastics generally is thought of a young person's sport, and most elite gymnasts began their training at a young age to take advantage of natural flexibility and early strength building. Still, gymnastics is far from restricted to young people. Regardless of age, it provides a challenging workout that can be beneficial and enjoyable.
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Beginning your training at a later age can be to your advantage. Most adults have some kind of athletic background, whether strength training, dance or sports, that can prove beneficial to their gymnastics training. Beginning a cross-training regime at the same time as gymnastics can develop skills and strength more quickly. Additionally, adults can possess greater mental focus, which is helpful for progressing in gymnastics.
The primary disadvantage to starting gymnastics later in life is that the older you are, the less likely you are to compete in gymnastics on an elite level. Young athletes also are more flexible, more capable of quickly building strength and more able to heal quickly from an injury. Additionally, many adults struggle with getting over the newness of the gymnastics, particularly when comparing themselves to younger gymnasts who progress more quickly.
Myriad physical benefits accrue to training in gymnastics at any age. Flexibility should be cultivated as much as possible in your life, but it becomes particularly valuable as you age and begin to lose natural flexibility. Gymnastics fosters mental focus, improves your strength and encourages a healthier lifestyle. Gymnastics also offers a more engaging and dynamic workout when compared to other types of exercise, training athletes to tumble, flip, twist and leap as part of their regular workout.
The best way to get started in gymnastics is to find a class that teaches specifically to your age range. Most fitness centers offer an adult gymnastics class that focuses on meeting participants at their physical level and progressing with respect to peoples' abilities. If you can't find a good gymnastics program in your area, cross-train strength and flexibility or take up a companion activity such as dance or yoga that translates easily into gymnastics.