Why more adults are taking up gymnastics: 'Age is just a number'

More adults are taking up the sport to get fit or complement their current exercise regimes

Loredana Niroda, 29, says while the fear of injury hinders many adults from taking on gymnastics, the sport teaches you how to master the art of not getting hurt when you fall.
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“Is 10 too old to start gymnastics?” is one of the most frequently asked questions on Google when it comes to the sport. Indeed, the traditional notion was that gymnasts start super-young and retire by 20. However, this is no longer the case, as the sport has evolved and become more democratic.

Age no bar

More people are pursuing gymnastics as a fitness alternative to reap the benefits of toning, flexibility and weight loss. You may not reach the Olympics as an adult learner, but you can still enjoy the rewards to be gained from the “mother of all sports”. (And, having said that, Olympian gymnast Oksana Chusovitina is a healthy 46.)

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Who wouldn’t want to say they can do a handstand or a backflip or muscle-ups on a hanging ring?
Dija Khalid, 35

Gymnast and fitness instructor Christian Brezeanu, who lives in the UAE and is a two-time Commonwealth Games silver medallist, believes it is never too late to take up the sport and says he has several clients over the age of 50 who are “studying” gymnastics.

Gymnastics training improves mobility, strength, agility and posture. Photo: GMB Fitness / Unsplash

“Age is just a number but, unfortunately, there’s still a big number of people who think gymnastics is just for children or that they are too old for it. We need to differentiate between gymnastics as a fitness and recreational activity, and gymnastics as an Olympic sport. As an activity, anybody can benefit from gymnastics, no matter how young or old they are.”

Brezeanu says the number of adults taking up gymnastics has risen in the UAE in the past five years. Various courses and camps are available for children and teens, but adults looking for a new way to tone and condition their muscles can also benefit from the activity. And if they push themselves hard enough, he believes anyone can learn cartwheels, handstands and bars manoeuvres at any age.

Flip the script

Brezeanu, who started learning gymnastics at the age of 6 in Romania and now runs Fly High Fitness gymnastics in Dubai, says most gymnastics coaches are from outside the UAE. “Gymnastics is still quite a new sport here. That’s why it is more popular with expats, and both men and women take it up in equal measure, whereas among children, girls make up a higher percentage.”

Adults pursue gymnastics for different reasons. Some may have done it in their younger years, and they want to come back because they miss it and are aware of the benefits. Some are bored with regular gym training, and need something more physically and mentally stimulating.

Some are involved in activities such as yoga, CrossFit or martial arts, and need to improve their performance, while some have always dreamt of being able to do a cartwheel, if only to share it on social media.

Fitness enthusiast Dija Khalid, 35, took up gymnastics to shake up her CrossFit routine, use different muscles in her body and, above all, for enjoyment.

Dija Khalid, 35, took up gymnastics to shake up her CrossFit routine and have fun whilst learning new skills.

“Who wouldn’t want to say they can do a handstand or a backflip or muscle-ups on a hanging ring? As an adult, that’s not something you see every day unless you’re a personal trainer or have been practising since childhood. So I’m hoping I can pursue gymnastics not to a professional level, but as a way of learning new skills while enjoying them, too,” she says.

Fear factor

It’s not all fun and games, however. The fear factor hinders many an adult, believes Loredana Niroda, 29, who started learning gymnastics at the age of 3 in her home town of Lugoj in Romania.

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It’s easy to get injured ... so it is important to be patient and consistent
Elke Vinck, founder, Aspire Gymnastics

“As adults, we are more aware of what can happen to us if we fall or do something wrong. It would be best if you prepare yourself to fall many times as this will happen over and over again until you master the art of falling without hurting yourself.

"Just remember that perseverance and an excellent coach can help you achieve things you didn’t know you were capable of, even at an older age,” says Niroda, who works as a gymnastics coach, group fitness instructor and personal trainer at Fly High Fitness.

Niroda believes if one crosses the barrier of investing enough time and energy in the sport, they will be rewarded with mobility, strength, agility and good posture, as well as having a higher level of body awareness.

The solution to hesitancy and fear among adults is consistency and determination, agrees Elke Vinck, founder of Aspire Gymnastics. She says the sport requires frequent and devoted practice, which adults sometimes miss out on because of other obligations. Most high-level gymnasts put in 30 to 40 hours of training a week.

Elke Vinck, founder of Aspire Gymnastics, began pursuing the sport after having five children.

Vinck says while adults can learn gymnastics (although it may take them longer than children to gain flexibility and strength), it is crucial they have a set goal.

“Some people specifically want to practise the rings or do bars and so on, so we guide them accordingly. For example, we train those who want to focus on flips on the trampoline.”

She pursued the sport after having five children, since they were also doing gymnastics. Focusing on flexibility, stability and balance all the time means it's not easy, says Vinck, who has noticed many adults inquire and try a couple of classes, but not everyone continues.

The key, she says, is to build up the training slowly. “It’s easy to get injured; one wrong landing and you can be out for a while. So it is important to be patient, consistent and enjoy what you’re doing. Oh, and always listen to your coach.”

Updated: January 27, 2022, 4:28 AM