Super-agers – that’s people whose biological age is lower than their actual age – should consider taking up the game of ping pong.
Apparently table tennis is the perfect activity to keep you happy, healthy, active and in good spirits.
Why? Well, it doesn’t only keep your body fit, it keeps your brain fit. All that complicated hand-eye coordination works its magic with brain cells and helps prevent dementia.
The game is one of the fastest racket sports, requiring muscle and cardio endurance. You need nimble footwork and upper body flexibility to return balls that come towards you at 60mph, demanding faster response times than tennis or to badminton.
While the energy expenditure needed is about the same as archery or bowling, skilled players use much more, said Alessandro Moura Zagatto, a sports physiologist and researcher at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil.
He calculated that their workouts were comparable to moderate rowing.
But ping pong’s unique visual and spatial demands, strategy and energy may offer benefits for the brain too.
A study of 164 Korean women aged 60 and older showed that table tennis improved more brain function than dancing, walking, gymnastics or resistance training. Other research suggests the game may ease symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“The great thing about our sport is it can be played by anyone,” said Jimmy Butler, a four-time national USA Table Tennis Association champion who overcame a debilitating muscle condition in his 20s and 30s to reclaim the title at age 44.
“I see 90-year-olds and 10-year-olds.”
If you want to give it a go, choose clothing that doesn’t irritate the skin – so look for silk or organic cotton. Women need a sports bra, and trainers should be cushioned and supportive.
Concentration and mindfulness will help keep your eye on the ball.
Don’t get distracted by shouts from your opponent or stray balls flying wildly from other tables.
Stay focused. Keep alert to spinning balls. Don’t rush to attack.
If you’re prepared to stick with it, your coordination and stamina will improve. You may even win the odd game, then a few more, and soon you’ll be playing doubles.
Keep a water bottle nearby as you’ll be sweating, and sip water between points. Stop when you’re tired and give yourself a pat on the back.
You’ll feel so good you’ll find you don’t want to give up ping pong.