I recently wrote a summary about a 2011 study that wanted to determine if participation in gymnastics, even at a recreational level improved young girls’ musculoskeletal health in the upper body. As a recreational gymnastics coach I wanted to share a bit of the information I learned.

The study focused on three groups of girls from the ages 6-11; 29 competitive gymnasts (who trained 6-16 hours/week), 29 recreational gymnasts (who trained 1-5 hours a week), and 29 non-gymnasts.

They looked at muscle strength, bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) through body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).


The study did find a lot of differences between the gymnasts and the non-gymnasts. Those participating in recreational gymnastics showed stronger and larger bones and muscles over the group that did not participate in gymnastics. Recreational gymnasts had 4% greater arm bone mineral content than non gymnasts and competitive gymnasts had 8% higher. However, the differences between recreational and competitive gymnasts in BMC were not significant.

The same patterns emerged with lean muscle mass, explosive power, and muscle endurance with the exception of the difference in muscle function between competitive and recreational gymnasts. Competitive gymnasts showed better muscle function their recreational counterparts.


The conclusion of this study was that even low training commitments in gymnastics resulted in better muscle function and more lean-mass than not participating but it was unable to associate it with stronger bones. I guess 4% isn’t enough to call it stronger.

What this study also shows is that a child doesn’t need to be an elite gymnast to see large improvements in muscles and lean-mass but will actually see improvement in as little at one hour a week of recreational gymnastics.

Recreational gymnastics is also an amazing way to develop your children’s fundamental movement skills! And it’s a lot of fun!

Tell me- Did you find this information interesting or just plain boring? I’m learning so much about children and sports and I’m dying to share it! 

REFERENCE:  Burt, L.A., Naughton, G.A., Greene, D.A., Couteix, D., Ducher, (2011). Non-elite gymnastic participation is associated with greater bone strength, muscle size, and function in pre- and early pubertal girls. Osteoporosos Int.


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