Ah, parkour. It started one of the Bond movies, showed up on The Office, and has steadily continued to grow in popularity ever since. The stylish sport is seen as a wild, exciting way to, among other things, both get some exercise and indulge in a little bit of artistic expression.
One area where parkour is often under appreciated, though, is its power as a therapy tool. There are many aspects about freerunning that can have a hugely positive impact on anyone who partakes in the sport — including youthful participants who are looking to heal from traumatic past experiences.
Here are a few of the best ways that parkour can help those struggling with things like low self-esteem, antisocial tendencies, and even domestic abuse move forward positively.
Parkour Encourages Physical Fitness
Parkour is popular as a sport. However, as is the case with all sports, the need to reach a competitive level of participation automatically makes parkour an excellent way to exercise, too. This has surrounded the sport with a culture of fitness that can help encourage younger participants to stay physically healthy.
Parkour hopefuls must learn to climb, vault, swing, and utilize other fantastically acrobatic activities. As they learn new moves and practice how to interact with obstacles in different ways, it challenges their physical capabilities. This helps to condition their bodies and provides both cardio and strength training without the need for early morning jogs, gym memberships, or other fitness routines that children often find difficult to either access or stick to.
Parkour Provides Mental Rest
There’s plenty of wisdom in the age-old advice to hit a punching bag or scream into a pillow if you need to release some pent-up frustration. If you’re trying to recover from a past experience, you may find a consistent need to vent that inner turmoil. Things like domestic violence can leave a child struggling with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety for years.
The problem is, when a child is encouraged to process their struggles in an aggressive manner (i.e. punching, screaming, and so on), they can associate those emotions with negative activities. Parkour offers an alternative that allows them to vent constructively and creatively.
It encourages younger individuals to tackle difficult exercises that can release endorphins. This can naturally help to relieve things like stress and anxiety. This ability to destress while engaged in parkour can work wonders on a child’s mental health.
Parkour Establishes Structure and Safety
Parkour is not an easy sport. On the contrary, it comes with myriad safety concerns. As is the case with many similar sports, this requires a serious commitment to both safety and structure.
For instance, many traceurs will meet at a spot to practice a move over and over again on the same equipment. This can become boring over time, especially for a sport that embraces endless creativity. However, for those who are learning, they must pace themselves and remain disciplined as they learn to use their bodies in new ways and sharpen their Jedi-like reflexes.
All of this, along with the natural safety precautions that must be taken with new and younger participants, tends to set up a sense of routine. Repeating the same practice moves, showing up on time to train with others, and working toward a common goal establishes a sense of structure that is invaluable to a troubled youth who may have little to no support or predictability in their personal life.
Parkour Enhances Sociability
Another way that parkour can have a significant impact on troubled youth is by helping them feel that they belong.
Attending classes, practicing, and working on creative new moves naturally requires other traceurs. This necessitates interactions with others who share their interests. It opens up bonding opportunities and can help draw an emotionally fractured teen or child out of self-imposed isolation.
Along with the in-person social aspects of parkour, learning the sport can help a child feel that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. As they follow parkour influencers who bring their fellow enthusiasts together, it helps them feel that they’re part of a tight-knit community.
Over time they may even be impacted by these high-profile traceurs as they send out messages of hope, challenge, and other like-minded content. It’s a trend that has already been taking place in the beauty industry for a while now through things like promoting body positivity and using ethical products. As the parkour movement continues to build, its influencers will wield an ever-growing ability to influence the countless legions of passionate parkour youth through positive, mentorship-esque messages.
Parkour is Rewarding
Finally, there’s the simple fact that parkour gives you a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Simply put, parkour is incredibly difficult, endlessly challenging, and can provide a unique level of victory that is difficult to reproduce in other sports.
No matter how many goals you score in a soccer match or touchdowns you catch in a football game, there is a certain level of predictability to winning in other sports. Is it still a rewarding experience? Absolutely. But, in a certain sense, you’re simply repeating the athletic victories of countless others that have come before you. You’re “sticking to the script” so to speak.
When it comes to parkour, though, you can tap into a unique sense of success. Personal challenges can be tailored to your strengths and, just as often, your weaknesses. This makes success in pulling off a certain move or overcoming a specific obstacle a deeply rewarding experience on an individual level. This can be invaluable for someone whose past is riddled with feeling defeated, downtrodden, and out of control.
Using Parkour to Heal the Broken
Parkour is a sport, and as such, it is often associated with athletic challenges, competition, and success. However, its value as a tool to heal the broken should never be overlooked.
Parkour can provide a healthy outlet for a young, hurt teen or child to overcome past trauma. It gives them a chance to restore their physical health, recover mental calm, connect with others, and ultimately feel a deep sense of personal success.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to physical fitness, sports, and overall health. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter: @HamiltonJori