Cheerleading Health Benefits
Cheerleading is sometimes dismissed as little more than a frivolous side activity, but it's a bit more than that. The sport requires plenty of strength to toss other cheerleaders, ample balance and dexterity for those at the top of a pyramid and sufficient aerobic fitness to cheer throughout a sports game. Consequently, the sport offers several important health benefits.
Cheerleaders frequently have to run, jump and remain physically active for long periods of time. This cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, reducing cheerleaders' risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and similar health problems. To maximize the benefits of cheerleading, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio each week.
Keep the Weight Down
The cardiovascular exercise that forms such an important part of cheerleading can also help cheerleaders maintain a healthy body weight. By avoiding obesity, cheerleaders can reduce their risk for Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. However, the focus on physical appearance within cheerleading can put some cheerleaders at an increased risk of developing an eating disorder, according to a 2012 "Journal of Athletic Training" study. Cheerleaders need to ensure they're not losing too much weight, and focus on maintaining physical fitness rather than achieving the myth of an "ideal" weight.
Building Strong Muscles
Throwing and lifting other cheerleaders, jumping and similar components of a cheerleading routine can help cheerleaders develop strong muscles. The CDC reports that strong muscles can reduce the risk for osteoporosis and arthritis, and regular muscle exercise can also help reduce muscle pain and make every-day activities such as carrying groceries or lifting boxes easier.
The Right Mentality
Cheerleading requires cooperation and communication, and regular social interaction can help cheerleaders make friends and gain peer support. The physical activity associated with cheerleading can also reduce cheerleaders' risk for depression and anxiety, and may improve sleep, according to the CDC. High school athletes, including cheerleaders, also tend to get better grades and have better time management skills, according to the Iowa High School Athletic Association. It was also found that 92 percent of high school athletes avoid drugs.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.