All sports are good for your health, but not all sports are equal – some give you more benefits than others do, and you need to consider the sport you dedicate your time to carefully.
Among these is Ping-Pong – it may sound like a simple sport that does not bring much, but the truth is it gives you many benefits (many that you may not have thought of). Also known as table tennis, it is surprisingly popular around the world – according to the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation), about 300 million people worldwide play the sport, making it among the most popular sports in the world. After all, it is part of the Olympic sports since 1988.
Regardless of whether you decide to pursue it as singles or doubles, it can be a game with quick pace. In addition, if you enjoy playing Ping-Pong game at intense rates, it becomes an inexpensive way to increase fitness.
Trivia on ping pong
Before exploring why Ping-Pong is good, it may interest you to look at some trivia on the sport, which explains its popularity.
- It began in the 1800s in England – Ping-Pong actually developed as an indoor version of lawn tennis, and its official name is Table Tennis.
- The ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) is an organization that regulates the sport, and formed in 1926, consisting of representatives from England, Austria, Hungary and Germany.
- Many of the original rules have not gone through any changes for almost a hundred years.
- The country that dominates the sport in international competitions is China, who have won 109 of the 131 World Championship titles (from 1931). Not a bad record for a country that did not originate the sport.
- Table tennis rubbers are a diverse lot – there are more than 1,000 varieties. The only aspect that does not change in competitions is the colour of the rubber, where one side must be red and the other black. The texture of these rubbers will affect the hits on the ball.
- Ping-Pong is the most popular indoor sport in the world.
Brainy benefits of playing ping pong
Research on the benefits of table tennis on the brain are not extensive, though some research can provide some clues.
- Acts as a mood booster
During exercise activities, the brain releases certain chemicals – neurotransmitters, which act as mood boosters and make you feel energized during your day. In fact, this is not only limited to table tennis – it applies to all aerobic activities, since it increases neurotransmitter levels, which reduce during depression. In addition to mood boosts for short periods, consistent exercise leads to reduced anxiety and depression over time.
These hormones include serotonin, which affects sleep, mood, memory and appetite; dopamine that affects emotional responses, movement and pleasurable feelings; and norepinephrine that affects stress responses.
- Enhancing reflexes
The game happens to have two aspects that increase its intensity – its short distance and fast pace. Because of this, you get to improve fine muscle movements as well as gross muscles. Your brain adapts to the fast movements quickly, and results in an overall sense of recovery and exertion bursts, which also make muscles develop quickly.
Many players of the sport also recognize their improving abilities to react unconsciously and immediately to outer stimuli, which is a similar result to practicing martial arts. In fact, having good reflexes can save your life during times of trouble – such as sudden attacks from thieves.
- Improves your balance
Among the many functions of the brain is maintaining balance in the body. You may take it for granted, but this is what keeps you from falling down or fainting frequently.
Ping-pong forces your brain and body to stay in balance while you change direction quickly, so that you stay successful. This tip is especially important for older people.
- Increasing motor coordination
The brain is more flexible and adaptable than you may know. Part of the long-term changes to the brain due to table tennis (and other sports) is the change to the structure of the motor cortex. This is a part of the outer covering of the brain, which becomes active when you do voluntary movements. The cerebellum also becomes active, and it will aid you when you are doing activities requiring fine motor control (like playing instruments, sewing, and so on).
- Increasing memory
If you want to fend off certain conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, you had better step up on the exercise activity. Playing ping-pong and exercising is an excellent way to grow new brain cells, especially in areas like the hippocampus (among the few brain structures that keep making new brain cells into adulthood).
Physical exercise constantly proves to affect the growth of new brain cells and helping them to survive for longer periods, resulting in more memory retention even in older age.
- Improving attention span
One fact about getting older is decreasing attention span; and in fact, as you grow older, you realize you need more breaks when you are working on something to restore your energy.
A popular tip is eating fruits and drinking water during the breaks, but there is a better solution – playing ping-pong with your colleague or friend. Increasing the activity levels of your body, even when playing ping-pong, results in increasing attention spans and ability to shift your focus to something. When you focus on the ball, you are constantly thinking quickly, and anticipating the moves the opposing player will make next – leading to improving attention.
Part of this also involves enhancing eye-hand coordination – an essential skill in fields such as dance, as well as general body movements.
The sport you decide on should fulfil two things – compatibility with your physical needs, and provide benefits to your health. If you can practice more than one sport, the better it is for you. Ping-pong will offer you many benefits, and the best part is that anyone can play it, even elderly people. In addition, the equipment is affordable.