Basketball, football, baseball and other popular team games are considered traditional sports. Parkour is an alternative, acrobatic sport that does not fit inside the idea of conventional sports. According to an article on HealthStatus, fitness and exercise are key components to living a healthy and fulfilling life, and there are many different methods to stay active.

Flagstaff Parkour and Fitness is a gymnasium that includes many acrobatic classes such as tumbling, free running and parkour. It is an activity that involves traversing natural environments as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible.

The man behind the training is Francesco Diguida, a certified parkour instructor who began practicing the sport in 2008. The activity has a detailed history with a background that contributes to how the sport is still practiced.

Parkour started as something called the Natural Method, which was adapted by a French military man named Georges Hébert. During this time people were only training with weights, according to parkourpedia.com.

“The Natural Method was a way of navigating natural environments slowly but with proper body mechanics,” Diguida said. “This translated into parkour later because there was a father named Raymond Belle who practiced the Natural Method with his sons.”

Belle and his sons turned this practice into a game of tag and made it more fast paced. They took the movements of the Natural Method and introduced them to urban environments. This shaped into what is now known as parkour.

Diguida has been an avid participant in the parkour community for over a decade and chooses not to put labels on the activity. Although it is a physically demanding practice, Diguida said it doesn’t need to be classified as a sport to have real and applicable benefits.

“I think the title of sport is arbitrary. I consider it more of a movement art,” Diguida said. “The real benefit that people get from parkour that they don’t get from conventional fitness is that, not only are you making your body strong, you are learning how to move your body in ways that most people can’t, which is very important for people to know.”

Sure, parkour can be self-taught, but Diguida said there are mechanics that should be properly learned.

“For instance, the shoulder roll — just learning how to fall properly,” Diguida said. “Most people don’t know how to fall, and a lot of broken bones come from the fact that they just didn’t know how to handle the fall they were given.”

The niche of parkour appeals to the life-enhancing skills such as flexibility, strength and speed that derive from simply knowing the basics.

Diguida has trained many people over the years. Kianna Ginter and Isaac Jimenez have both trained at Flagstaff Parkour and Fitness and their dialogue is a testament to the physical gains and mental confidence that come from parkour.

“I’ve learned to be more agile and use my environment in ways that the average person wouldn’t see,” Ginter said. “It’s a stress reliever. It’s not all about doing the craziest stunt or dangerous things. It’s more about expressing yourself and having fun.”

Ginter said parkour has made her appreciate her body more and she is now more motivated to eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated.

For Jimenez, practicing Parkour is about liberation and self-control.

“The greatest feeling is that sense of freedom when you’re in the air,” Jimenez said. “It helps clear your mind. It is just a peaceful feeling.”

Ginter and Jimenez are now both instructors at Flagstaff Parkour and Fitness for youth classes. The two said they put their all into each lesson they give, just like their instructor did for them.

The New York Times reported that most people practice yoga to feel more in touch with their bodies, increase their flexibility and soothe their minds. Diguida believes parkour offers all of these things while incorporating environmental and speed factors.

“Interacting with my environment helps me feel like I have more control over my body, which is important to me,” Diguida said. “I don’t want to live in a world where I see a fence as a barrier. Seeing an obstacle and knowing how to maneuver it makes me feel safe.”

Parkour is more than doing semiathletic movements, such as jumping over a puddle or clearing a park bench. Jimenez practices the sport as an art of movement and a hobby that he considers a form of therapy.

To some like Diguida, Ginter and Jimenez, the lifestyle advantages from parkour are undeniable. The sport has enriched their lives and they are happy they started and advanced in the activity.

Take it from Diguida who said parkour changed his life for the better.

“Having that connection with my body just feels right,” Diguida said. “It feels like that’s what we have a body for.”