Just like those bright pompoms on the field, the benefits of cheerleading are easy to spot. If your kids want to join a cheerleading squad, they’re on their way to good health and a good mood. This aerobic activity is great for hearts, bones, and muscles. Plus, exercising with others is motivating, and has proven, lasting psychological benefits.
It Builds Strong Bones
While many people argue that jumping hurts your knees and joints, science begs to differ. “Jumping increases bone density, so you can actually prevent osteoarthritis by jumping,” says Rachel DeBusk, CPT at Unstill Life. According to a study in the Journal of Athletic Training, only 6 percent of cheerleaders were injured over a one-year period. To reduce risk of injuries, which are most often sprains and strains in the lower extremities, make sure you get some base strength around your joints, incorporate stretching, flexibility, and regular exercise (outside of cheerleading practice).
Happiness Is Basically a Requirement
Cheerleaders are encouraged to smile even when the game isn't going their way, and that might make them happier in general. “We smile because we are happy but smiling also makes us happy,” says the University of Cardiff’s Dr. Michael Lewis. He conducted a study that showed that people who couldn’t frown because of Botox injections reported feeling less sad than the control group. So keep smiling — it could cheer you up.
Cheerleaders Might Get a Better Workout Than the Whole Team
A high school football game is in play for 48 minutes. Add timeouts and halftime, and the game could easily go for an hour and a half. Cheerleaders are active throughout that time. “From core strength for stunting to powering every muscle in your body for tumbling, cheerleaders are the strongest athletes around,” claims Danielle Wechsler, founder of cheerFIT Training. She estimates that each cheer practice burns 600 calories.
It Beats Singing Alone in the Shower
You don’t have to pass a singing audition to become a cheerleader. Still, singing fight songs with your cheer team can have emotional and brain benefits, and you don’t even have to be good at it. That’s right, a study conducted at the University of Sheffield indicates that even if you’re a bad singer, you can benefit emotionally, socially, and cognitively from singing with a group.
Cheerleaders Are Leaders and Team Players
Cheerleading produces active, engaged citizens. According to a survey conducted by Varsity Brands, a company that runs cheerleading camps and makes uniforms, cheerleaders were more likely to hold a leadership position in their school or community. Cheerleaders work together as a team across racial, social, and economic boundaries.
Using Your Voice Is Encouraged
We spend half of our lives telling our kids to use their “inside voices,” but the deep breathing that supports a cheerleader’s yells is very good for you. Diaphragmatic breathing (that is, inhaling and exhaling deeply) has a number of medical benefits including reducing the negative effects of stress. So let those kids holler. When you send them off to the big city for college, they may be able to handle the transition and the demands of college more easily.