Learning to juggle might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider improving your overall health, however, the benefits reach far beyond having a good party trick.
Juggling is an ancient skill and generally considered a form of entertainment. According to Top End Sports the earliest evidence of the art form are images found in an Egyptian tomb dating back to 1781BC but references to juggling are found across the globe.(https://www.topendsports.com/juggling/history.htm)
Clearly a skilled juggler is still able to thrill an audience, but the real magic of juggling is its ability to improve the physical, mental and social health of any individual who is prepared to learn.
Juggling is active but gentle. It improves hand eye coordination, balance and improves the range of movement in arms and shoulders. You can vary pace and intensity to suit your level of fitness and increase it gently or more aggressively to suit your needs. You can begin to learn and practice at any age, and it is suitable for all abilities. Best of all it gives you a whole body exercise without feeling like a workout.
Juggling makes you smarter and can future proof your brain. Over the last decade or so juggling has come to the attention of medical researchers fascinated by the ability of juggling to preserve and develop brain function. It has been found to increase both white and grey brain matter.
“White matter consists of the bundles of long nerve fibres that conduct electrical signals between nerve cells and connect different parts of the brain together, while the grey matter consists of the nerve cell bodies where the processing and computation in the brain is done.” (http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2009-10-12-juggling-enhances-connections-brain)
Two separate studies using a control group who did not practise learning to juggle and a group who practiced regularly for a few weeks found an increase in brain size and functionality. The really encouraging news is that this growth was apparent regardless of whether the participant was still struggling to master a simple three ball pattern or had progressed on to five balls and complicated tricks.
As with all forms of exercise endorphins are released in the body which promotes positivity and feeling good. The nature of juggling requires full focus and even when feeling extremely stressed practising juggling for five minutes can clear your mind and make space for innovation and seeing things from different perspectives. For this reason, juggling is used by many as a form of meditation and relaxation. Stress hormones are quickly reduced. The opportunity to work towards and achieve what to many may seem the impossible promotes self believe, self value and a more positive outlook. Through practice, proprioception improves, which while this is really a physical health benefit improves body awareness and can encourage a positive body image.
Juggling can be done virtually anywhere and requires close to no financial investment to get started. It is easiest with proper Juggling balls, approximately £2.50 each, but people have learned with apples or even rolled up socks. Another option is a set of juggling scarves which can be purchased for about £3. These items can fit in a handbag or even a pocket. Sweet Circus also sell learn to juggle kits with a variety of items to help you get started.
Because everyone can work at their own pace and level it is really easy to juggle with others, having a ‘study buddy’ with whom you can take turns watching and advising each other is great. Families can juggle together, even the youngest children can join in picking up dropped balls or simply playing catch. And of course, there are plenty of patterns which can be practiced which require two, three or even more people. Language needn’t be a barrier as juggling is a kinetic and visual skill which can be taught, learned and shared with very little verbal communication if required.
Because of the required full focus, people usually lose any self-consciousness very quickly, especially as the most accomplished jugglers will be dropping balls left and right as they try to acquire their next level of skill.
The best thing about learning to juggle in a group is that members will soon be laughing! I have been teaching people to learn juggling for 24 years and I can assure you, laughter is a massive part of it. This makes it a great team building activity.
Juggling is contagious, if you don’t have anyone to juggle with when you start, you will quickly collect them. Take your balls to the park and people will want to join in, take them to work and use them as a stress buster during your screen break and pretty soon you’ll be teaching a colleague what you have learned so far.
At Sweet Circus we want to make juggling part of the culture of Eastbourne.
We would like there to be juggling drop-ins across the town, juggle jams in shared spaces, learn to juggle lunch breaks for customers and staff in shops and juggling breaks as part of employee wellbeing. This is why we provide free learn to juggle lunch breaks. We currently have one running fortnightly at Tesco’s in Lottbridge drove and we are constantly looking for other venues and opportunities to expand this programme.