It’s a big world out there with many variables. Children need to develop a base set of skills to become productive adults. Sports and various hobbies or activities can help develop some of those skills. At young ages, kids are encouraged to try a wide variety of sports and activities. They teach not just physical literacy and maturity but also many life lessons. Teamwork, leadership, humility, how to handle failure, and the drive to overcome obstacles to achieve success are among the many lessons sports teach us.
Some skills are fairly easy to learn. Most children have an easy time with soccer. It isn’t too hard to run and kick a ball. Becoming better than your peers at soccer is another story, though. Other activities like riding a bike or catching a hard baseball tend to be larger obstacles. They can be scary, and they require higher levels of coordination.
Most kids learn to ride a bike. They start on training wheels, progressing to two wheels. Biking can be a great way to develop coordination and cardiovascular fitness. But what if we took away another wheel?
Very few people ever learn to ride a unicycle. Several reasons: it’s hard to learn, it’s slow, and did I mention it’s very, very hard to learn? Based on those negatives, they’re very uncommon. They’re usually used for entertainment purposes in circuses and street performers.
A Performance-Enhancing Tool?
Unicycles are difficult to learn due to their instability. They are very difficult to balance. You, the user, provide all the stability to keep it upright. A bicycle only requires you to balance laterally, left and right. A unicycle doubles that, as you also need to balance forward and backward in addition to left and right.
Given that it requires a high level of physical mastery, you’d think those that can ride a unicycle would be pretty athletic. You would be right. So learning to ride a unicycle probably increases your athleticism then, right? Again, yes!
Researchers in Slovenia conducted a study on children and unicycle riding. They recruited a group of middle school-aged children with no previous unicycle-riding experience. After twelve 45-minute unicycle-riding lessons, researchers measured their performance changes. They found the children demonstrated improved trunk strength in all three directions of flexing forward, sides, and extending backward. They also found their reflexes improved as well. And, of course, they learned a new skill of riding a unicycle.
Improved strength and postural reflexes are tremendous attributes for athletes! We all know the benefits of being strong. But being able to reflexively maintain a balanced, neutral posture can be a key to athleticism and preventing injuries. Many injuries occur because athletes cannot react fast enough to a coming object or quickly enough to adjust to a heavy stimulus such as a blindside tackle or fall. In addition, many cases of low back pain stem from an inability to maintain a proper posture because the body cannot react quickly enough.
Is Riding A Unicycle Right For You?
Based on the information from the study, riding a unicycle can be a beneficial skill to learn. Even if you aren’t an athlete, it’s a skill that will probably serve you well, reducing the likelihood of back pain. Over 80% of adults suffer from bouts of low back pain at times. Developing strength and reactional stability can lower this risk.
This is the first study of its kind. More research should be conducted, to prove that it can reduce chronic low back pain symptoms and increase athletic performance.
Learning to ride a unicycle will develop balance, core strength, and trunk stability regardless of your goal. These are attributes you want. Plus, you get to learn a fun new skill that few ever learn! Give unicycle-riding a try and take some lessons!