Looking for a Fun Family Exercise? How About Parkour!
What is Parkour?
To some, Parkour is the most empowering force in their life. To others, it’s a cross between gymnastics and martial arts. To Wikipedia, it is a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training involving running, jumping, climbing, swinging, rolling, vaulting and other movements. To social media, it is art in which daredevils use our environments landscape as inspiration to perform the most amazing movements. To some special needs children, it is a fun exercise they can participate in with their siblings and parents.
In Boulder, CO, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Natalie McKechnie Mannherz & Parkour Instructor/ Co-owner of Superhuman Academy, Nick Zaleski, combined forces to run a parkour program for families and children with special needs in an effort to facilitate a more interactive type of therapy in which family members can join, be active and be involved in learning the art of Parkour.
After taking a class, Natalie knew this would be the perfect activity for these children. She said that by “inviting the parents to participate it adds another layer of assistance if a child is showing increased dysregulation or is having a difficult time.”
Parkour as a Physical Exercise
You’d be pleasantly surprised to know that the movements of Parkour are quite like other exercises. You’re still doing your lunges and pushups and squats, but you are also wall climbing and jumping on things. You aren’t stationary while doing parkour, you are moving about the room, running from one obstacle course to another. Sounds like fun, right?
“Parkour stresses body awareness. Poor posture has become a known source for injury and pain. Many of parkour’s basic movements work to correct and bring to light these issues. Parkour then builds on this foundation with improved strength, coordination, and balance.”- Nick Zaleski
Let’s explore the physical benefits of Parkour:
- Builds core strength through high levels of movement
- Running and jumping works all the muscles, helping to develop bone strength
- Increased coordination, balance and agility through reaction time
- Strengthens your heart and increases stamina
- Burns excess Calories so you can lose weight
Parkour as a Mental Exercise
Parkour is not only a great physical exercise but a mental exercise as well. While you are developing core strength, balance, bilateral coordination, body awareness and endurance, you are also nurturing your inner self.
“Parkour embodies a “You vs. Yourself” mentality which allows students to participate without stress o f comparing with peers. It encourages creativity, which evokes curiosity and critical thinking habits.” – Superhuman website
Let’s explore the mental benefits of Parkour:
- Fosters creative thinking and problem solving
- Promotes quick thinking and self-trust
- It makes your fearless…knowing you can handle any obstacle before you
- Leaves you feeling confident, having accomplished those obstacles
- Participating in a fun active activity promotes inner happiness
- Studies have proved it decreases antisocial behavior
The Best Reward
I asked Natalie to shed some light on how parkour is making an impact in the children she works with, specifically on how it has reduced antisocial behavior. Here’s what she said.
“In the class, they are also learning how to self-regulate, follow directions, overcome challenges, and participate in a group. One of the biggest benefits is for these children to encounter something that is difficult and learn how to try that obstacle until they are successful… the children are focused on the parkour skill instead of on learning specific foundational skills. Developing these skills in a parkour class directly translates to how they are performing in other areas and environments. We have teachers report that the children are able to sit up for longer periods of time to write and that they are noticeably stronger. ” – Natalie McKechnie Mannherz
Making an Impact
Natalie and the Superhuman Academy are certainly making an impact. They aren’t just helping children grow healthy and strong while doing a fun activity, they are fostering an environment in which families can bond, learn, and challenge themselves. The result isn’t just a smile on their face, it’s a sense of accomplishment and a huge confidence boost from the feeling of success.
Moving forward Natalie and Superhuman Academy have plans to open an inclusive facility, designed to accommodate every child. At some point they would love to have their own facility where they can serve both neurotypical and neurodiverse children in an inclusive way. They are planning to add an inclusive class that is assisted by peer mentors as well as set up a transition class so that they can eventually participate in a neurotypical class with other children their age.
To learn more about Superhuman Academy and Natalie’s program in Boulder, CO feel free to visit shmovement.com.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2017 Magazine