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Stronger Bodies, Stronger Brains: The Numerous Health Benefits of Playing Table Tennis

At first glance, it might be hard for new players to equate the athleticism required for table tennis to the physical demands of full-court racquet sports like tennis, racquetball or badminton. After all, table tennis is, by definition, a game played standing at a table, right? The answer is both yes and no. While table tennis doesn’t require any cross-court sprints like tennis and racquetball do, the game is no less physically demanding, and in fact requires a level of mental dexterity that only a game played on a smaller surface could demand. Ultimately, the athleticism and critical thinking required for the sport are no less necessary and no less impressive than in full-court sports, and in fact, there are some unique health benefits offered with table tennis that even full-court tennis players are missing out on. If you want to improve upon your agility, flexibility, reflexes, and mental acuity and strategy, you really should be playing table tennis (if you aren’t already!).

The Physical

Though the game takes place at a table, if you’re playing it seriously you’re doing anything but “standing.” Table tennis requires players to be constantly on their toes, briskly hopping from side to side to return balls volleyed second by second. The game is quick and fun and therefore distracts from the reality that it is quite physically demanding: as a result, a good and well-played game of table tennis can help players burn thousands of calories without realizing it. Further, reflexes are sharpened tremendously with table tennis as you must react to opponents’ moves within milli-seconds, coordinating full-body recoils and set-ups shot-by-shot. Hand-eye coordination also benefits hugely by regularly playing table tennis, more so even than with racquetball or tennis as your paddle and your ball are much smaller and therefore require dead-on accuracy and precision.

And while this might seem counter-intuitive, the small operating space at a ping-pong table actually requires players to have incredible muscle control. Think about it: a tremendous amount of power has to be generated for a quick and accurate shot that occurs within a relatively small space, so your entire body must be tensed and coordinated to make each shot occur and land strategically and with incredible power. So while you may not be running long distances at the table, your agility, coordination, and your strength are paramount in delivering each tactical shot.

 

Finally, table tennis is one of the few high-energy games that’s gentle on knees and joints. Tennis or racquetball players who’ve suffered shoulder or knee injuries or have dealt with tennis elbow often find respite with table tennis. While movements in table tennis are no less powerful, they are smaller and more contained, and so actions like leaps, lunges, and hard-stops which can be painful on knees and joints occur on a much smaller scale in table tennis. Ultimately, for a game that’s both wildly fun, physically demanding, AND safe to play without injury, table tennis is truly ideal.

The Mental

Health benefits in playing table tennis abound not only for your physical state, but for your mental state as well. The motor skills and cognitive awareness required for a game of high-speed table tennis keep players sharp: in fact, Alzheimer’s Weeklywrites that table tennis players who play regularly show increased blood-flow to the brain which can help in preventing issues later in life like dementia. Further, the rapid pace of play and strategy required in executing a well-played game of table tennis offers a level of mental acuity and cognitive development found in few other sports. The coordination of tactics and shot-planning with the quick and agile body movements required to execute strategy make for a mental workout unlike any other. In fact, in her book “Healthy Brain, Happy Life,” Wendy Suzukipurports that table tennis, more so than any other sport, is a “brain sport,” first, and a test of athleticism second. Chess-like planning has to occur at a break-neck pace in table tennis and has to be coordinated with the appropriate physical moves: this mental exercise keeps brains sharp in a way that’s truly unique to this sport alone.

At the end of the day, table tennis is fundamentally just good wholesome fun. You can play it casually with friends, you can spend time honing strategy, or you can use a table tennis robot to truly exercise both your body and mind intensively, safely, and in a way that’s great fun. But no matter how you choose to partake in the sport, the benefits to both your mental and physical health will be numerous and impactful. So enjoy yourself, challenge yourself, and have fun breaking a sweat: there’s no way to do anything less when you belly up to the ping-pong table!

 

Author: Katie Eddy is a professional b2b and b2c marketing consultant and avid table tennis enthusiast

 

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