“In the earliest days of Greek education, emphasis was placed mostly on the gymnast. Music was incorporated with gymnastics and included the art of grammar, but bodily education came first through the belief that all other forms of knowledge and learning flowed from the mighty human body. The training of the body was primary to the training of the mind. Greek education emphasized the training of the body as sort of a prerequisite to studying philosophy and mathematics. Gymnastics and music were to train the body to physically understand what it meant to be harmonized. How could one effectively understand or be inspired by geometry if one did not know how to use his arms and legs properly? This emphasis on the body was motivated by the Greek’s desire for true citizenship by embracing the moral and social aspects of what it meant to be human. This union of body and soul was fragmented when Greek culture clashed with Roman culture. Roman civilization took Greek education and separated the distinctions of body and soul into two spheres. The idea of the gymnast as key to education began to fade with Roman influence and eventually the soul was considered more essential. The soul began to take precedence as the revealer of the outward. This new ideal of man, influenced by the Romans, would continue into medieval education and from it would come the ultimate man, the rhetorician.” -Caleb Skogen, “A Quadrivium Developed, Part 1”

Modern science recognizes today that exercise gives us:

-Increased oxygen flow to the brain

-Increased brain neurotransmitters

-“[Increased] brain-derived neurotrophins that support neuronal differentiation and survival in the developing brain.” Neurotrophins assure the survival of neurons in areas responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking.

-Sociological studies show that test scores improve and drop-out rates decrease when P.E. is present in schools.

“Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there has been an implicit belief that physical activity is linked to intellectual abilities. However, the relation between exercise and children’s mental function has not, until relatively recently, been systematically evaluated. A historical overview provided by Kirkendall (1986) sheds light on why this is the case. His review of research published prior to 1985 revealed that a number of studies on the psychological benefits of physical activity were conducted during the 1950s and 1960s; however, there was a precipitous decline of publications in the 1970s and 1980s. The reduced interest reflected, in Kirkendall’s opinion, educators’ shift of research priorities toward the physical benefits of exercise and away from potential mental benefits.

The health and wellness movement in the 1980s, along with the emergence of academic degree programs specializing in exercise psychology, led to a renewed interest in evaluating the effects of exercise on psychological processes (Tomporowski 2006). A number of influential theory-based papers directed researchers toward the study of the impact of exercise on mental health (Folkins and Sime 1981; Plante and Rodin 1990), affect (Morgan 1981; Morgan et al. 1970), and cognition (Tomporowski and Ellis 1986). A substantial literature has emerged over the past two decades that focuses on the impact of physical activity on the processes of aging. Comparatively less research has been conducted to assess how exercise influences children’s mental development. Several recent experiments conducted both with adult humans and animals (Colcombe et al. 2004a, b; Pereira et al. 2007) provide evidence that exercise performed on a regular basis for several weeks alters brain functions that underlie cognition and behavior. Physical activity results in a host of biological responses in both muscles and organs that, in turn, modify and regulate the structure and functions of the brain (Dishman et al. 2006). Given that children respond to exercise in a fashion similar to adults, exercise experiences would have important implications for their education.” “Exercise and Children’s Intelligence, Cognition, and Academic Achievement” by Phillip D. Tomporowski,corresponding author Catherine L. Davis, Patricia H. Miller, and Jack A. Naglieri

Gymnastics Through History: An Introduction

“Gymnastics is a sport involving the performance of exercises requiring physical strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, and balance. Exercises of the ancient Greeks began with athletic feats performed by each individual according to his own notion.

The youth were encouraged to combine amusement with exercise. In time, this kind of exercise was incorporated into a system that figured prominently in the state regulations for education. All Greek cities had a gymnasium, a courtyard for jumping, running, and wrestling. As the Roman Empire ascended, the Greek gymnastics gave way to gymnastics whose purpose was military training.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Germany, three pioneer physical educators – Johann Friedrich GutsMuths (1759–1839) and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778–1852) – created exercises for boys and young men on apparatus they had designed that ultimately led to what is considered modern gymnastics.

Artistic gymnastics is usually divided into Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics. Typically men compete on six events: Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar, while women compete on four: Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. The Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG) was founded in Liege in 1881. By the end of the nineteenth century, men’s gymnastics competition was popular enough to be included in the first “modern” Olympic Games in 1896 and since then it has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games.” –www.hawkeye-gymnastics.com “Why Gymnastics”

“There is one characteristic of gymnastics that is rare to discover in other sports. Gymnastics is acyclic. The actions and motions of the body do not repeat themselves as they do in running or swimming, for example. Because of this acyclic nature, the body and mind of the gymnast are exposed to ever changing stimuli since the same movements are not repeated over and over. One of the possible benefits of this is to offset plateaus while the athlete continues to progress and achieve.”

— Wm. Sands Ph.D., Exercise Physiologist
University of Utah