When you hear people talking about ‘brain sports’ you probably don’t expect them to start talking about ping pong. Chess, sure. Sudoku, definitely. But ping pong? The sport where you bat a ball back and forth over a little net?
Well, the thing is, ping pong is actually a fantastic way to sharpen your physical and mental acuity - it has even been called one of the world’s best brain sports! People have hit it right on the money by calling ping pong ‘aerobic chess’; this sport is all about thinking fast, keeping your cool, and fast reflexes.
How does all of this translate into ping pong being a good brain sport though? Believe it or not, the answer starts with aerobics.
There is a good reason why aerobics are touted as important for a healthy lifestyle. Cardiovascular health is key for maintaining physical health and improving how efficiently the body oxygenates and transports blood, including to the brain. A well-oxygenated brain allows you to think fast, process information lightning quick, and stay at the top of your game.
Aerobic exercise, in particular, is great for the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory retention, and guess what? Ping pong is an aerobic activity!
Even during calmer matches your blood starts pumping; you’re snapping your arms out to hit the ball, quickly adjusting your weight to meet each serve, carefully controlling the strength of your swings, and constantly analysing the game. All of that, especially during intense matches, gets your heart picking up the pace!
Now, this aerobic exercise opens the door, as it were, to making ping pong a brain sport. The level of mental exercise ping pong provides is what seals the deal.
Ping pong sharpens your reflexes, and it does so by training you to anticipate your opponent's moves, react to returns, and act fast! Over time, reflexes and hand-eye coordination improve, as well as your ability to concentrate. This training of the mind in conjunction with the aerobic exercise makes for quite the workout.
Basically, the more you play, the more you use your body and mind together - and that is what makes ping pong a brain sport.