Internationally, children’s fundamental movement skills (FMS) such as running, throwing, catching and kicking are worryingly low.
What can be done to change this trend? This article will discuss the benefits of incorporating gymnastics in the school curricular.
Importance of stability skills
At the most foundational level, all FMS skills require stability. Stability skills are the capacity to sense a shift in the relationship of the body parts that alter one’s balance, as well as the ability to adjust rapidly and accurately to these changes with the appropriate compensating movements. Cross-sectional evidence suggests that children participating in gymnastics possess enhanced orientation and stabilisation skills leading to a better understanding of where the body is in space.
It was hypothesised gymnastics may offer an excellent opportunity to develop all children’s gross motor skills. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a 16 week gymnastics curriculum in developing a wide range of gross motor skills.
A total of 333 (51% girls) children between 7-9 participated in this study. Children were split into either a gymnastics group or standard PE group. Both groups undertook 16 weeks x 2hrs a week of their respective curriculums and were pre and post tested on a large battery of motor skills.
After 16 weeks, the gymnastics group had significantly improved their stability and ball skills scores (p < .05) compared to the standard curriculum group. No difference between the two groups was found for locomotor or general body coordination skills.
Gymnastics should be an integral foundation aspect of all children’s PE curriculum in early primary school to enhance the development of stability skills and ball skills without hindering the development of other gross motor skills.