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Making it trendy to be healthy

Street gymnastics are cool, from free running, to martial arts, to downhill mountain biking, skateboarding and extreme cheerleading - street gymnastics are ‘in’ and that can only be a good thing for the youth segment.

I saw this video this morning:

Then I watched this:

And then this:

Now obviously there is a ‘danger of injury’ issue to unregulated, unprotected street gymnastics, but that is not what this post is about, people do these crazy things at their own risk - just as they always have! Cycling, roller skates, snowboarding, skiing, running, gymnastics, roller blades, skateboards, rugby, American Football, weight lifting - there have always been sports that risk injury, that’s nothing new.

What’s new here, and what excites me, is that the broad ‘street gymnastics’ movement, is trendy, it’s cool, it’s hip. Free running (Parcour) and extreme cheerleading, street bar-workouts in playgrounds and all similar unofficial, unregulated street gymnastics are in fashion, young people think they are cool and if video’s like this can be viral hits on YouTube, that will help inspire thousands more to get involved and join in.

It may not be the complete answer to the global obesity epidemic, but it just might help.

You see, 20 or 30 years ago these things were not in fashion. Gymnastics was a niche-sport, and street gymnastics did not exist. When I was a teen, the cool thing to do was to get drunk, smoke and eat junk food.

The difficulty with trying to help teenagers and young adults make better health choices, is that they are rebellious by nature, and they do not want to be told what to do. If we ‘preach’ to them, ‘lecture’ them or try to coerce them in behavioural change, they will likely rebel and push further in the opposite direction - such is the nature of youth.

So trying to tell young people to eat more vegetables, stay out of the pub and get more exercise clearly is a pointless pursuit. However, if the drive comes from their side…”I want to be good at this cool stuff, how do I get fitter and stronger?” then it’s a whole different story. If they see these street style gymnastics as “viral”, “underground”, “unofficial” - that gives it a cool veneer that organised sport does not have in quite the same way. This will appeal to a whole new group within youth culture, and it just might inspire thousands of young people to spend their free time working out instead of smoking and drinking alcohol.

Like I said, I doubt it’ll change the world, but if it changes a handful of people, then I am all for it and I hope it thrives.


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