Physical and Mental Benefits of Longboarding
Longboarding is fun and exciting, but is that all that it has going for it? Is longboarding valuable as a form of exercise? The answer is, yes, longboarding is just as impactful on the health of those who do it as any other sport. And that’s not just an opinion. The research on the benefits of physical activities like longboarding is building, and it supports your urge to ride.
There are many measures of physical fitness, and activities like longboarding help us improve in most of them. Because it requires the rider’s arms, legs and torso to constantly move, longboarding is considered an aerobic exercise. This type of activity forces the lungs and heart to work harder to get oxygen to the muscles. Aerobic exercise improves stamina, prevents illnesses, strengthens the heart and elevates the mood. It is also key in helping maintain a healthy weight.
As childhood obesity rates have continued to climb over the past three decades, it is quickly becoming apparent that it is now a global epidemic. It is convenient to blame the prevalence of junk food in our diets and screens in our lives, and they obviously contribute to the problem. But, inactivity is at the root of the problem. Activities like longboarding are the solution.
Unlike other sports, longboarding has no seasons or schedules. We can do it whenever the weather permits. In many climates, that freedom to skate means longboarders are physically active year round. Over time, longboarders develop an energy balance, as they burn the calories that they take in from their diets. Physical fitness is a natural result of longboarding.
Coordination and balance
As individual sports, longboarding, skateboarding and surfing all share one important premise. The people who take part in them are competing only against themselves, trying every day to be just a little bit better at it than they were the previous day. In the process, they are all building neural pathways and engaging regions of the brain that otherwise do not communicate with each other.
The importance of making these connections between brain and body and the mechanisms that make it happen are just beginning to come into focus. Bodybuilders call it the “mind-muscle connection,” and it is a pillar in that sport. To a longboarder, the gradual process of learning to stay on the board without having to think about it accomplishes the same thing. The connections that are formed in the brain while longboarding appear to be permanent, or nearly so, and the improvements in balance and coordination may last a lifetime.
The mental side
Anecdotally, most longboarders can tell you how longboarding has improved their overall mentality. Longboarders must recognize their own limitations, unless they want to end up in a heap on the pavement. As they progress, though, longboarders learn to push those limitations gradually, learning the benefits of patience and persistence in the process. But, longboarding has a more scientifically proven benefit to our mental well-being.
Studies consistently show that increasing physical activity leads to improvements in mental health, cognitive abilities and educational success. More research needs to be done before we can state for certain why this happens, but it appears that simply being physically active helps people strengthen their minds as they strengthen their bodies.
The benefits also seem to work the other way. Just as physical activity seems to lessen the overall chance of becoming depressed, research also shows that increasing physical activity levels can reduce the severity of depression in adolescents who are already affected by it. And the good news is that it doesn’t seem to matter how intense the exercise is, so cruising on a longboard is likely just as beneficial as all out freeride... at least as far as depression and anxiety are concerned.
Reducing screen time
Simply put, longboarding decreases screen time by its very nature. After all, you can’t be playing video games if you’re outside living life. The benefits of limiting screen time have been thoroughly proven over the past several decades. Even before the internet age, parents noticed their children’s tendencies to get fixated on television screens. In those days, parents simply assumed that rising levels of inactivity and a lack of imaginative play were harming kids, but now we have scientific research to back up those assumptions.
Studies continuously show that, as screen time goes up and physical activity gets reduced, sleep patterns can suffer dramatically. In a recent study of nearly 5000 Chinese college students, high screen time levels were shown to drastically decrease sleep quality. This study, and others like it, also show a pervasive link between screen time, inactivity and mental health issues.
Of course, kids and families should take a realistic approach to screen time, with the understanding that smart phones, TVs and computers are not going anywhere. Until recently, parents were urged to limit their kids’ screen time to two hours per day. But, the most recent American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines take a more individualized approach. Now, the idea is more to ensure that each child (older than 6 years) gets enough nutrition and exercise to be healthy, and that screen time does not interfere with getting adequate sleep.
The odds are that no longboarder really needs a reason to keep longboarding. The feeling that comes from floating on that board, in complete control but just on the edge of losing it, is as unexplainable as it is fleeting. We get that feeling, then we spend the rest of our lives trying to capture it again. Longboarders do what they do for the love of it.
The problem is that many people do not understand, and sometimes people throw stones at the things that confound them. If you find yourself having to explain why you ride – or why you’d like to – use the information in this article as ammunition. If you’re a parent looking for a way to get your kid off the couch, look no further. Longboarding is a healthy way for anyone, young or old, to get active and to live a longer and more interesting life. The fun is just the cherry on top.
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