How playing table tennis gets you fit

Getting started in table tennis fitness

Table tennis is a fun and accessible way of getting your body fit and healthy. Here's our quick introduction to table tennis, which is fast becoming one of the most popular Olympic sports around.

An introduction to playing table tennis

Anyone who has watched table tennis will be familiar with sound of squeaking footwear as the players put themselves through their paces trying to outwit one another. This sport is an extremely fast moving one and demands possibly the quickest reactions of any of the Olympic disciplines.

How table tennis gets you fit

Table tennis players can put extreme spin on the ball to make it difficult to predict or return, or can try to maneuver their opponent around the table — hoping to open up a point winning opportunity. But the real joy of the game is in its simplicity, requiring very little in the way of equipment, meaning it is a very accessible sport.

Table tennis is certainly a sport for all and a sport for life — anyone can get involved at any time and continue play throughout. It is particularly good for developing alertness and co-ordination.

A brief history of table tennis

Table tennis can be traced back to Victorian England, as a form of after-dinner amusement for upper class Victorians in the 1880s. Everyday objects were used; books as a net, a knot of string as a ball and a cigar box lid as the bat. The popularity of the pastime led game manufacturers to sell the equipment commercially.

The sound generated in play was what gave the sport its name "ping pong" and this was used by some manufacturers of equipment at the time. Around the turn of the 20th century celluloid balls or paddles were introduced to the game, and by 1927, London held the first ever official world championships.

Table tennis was granted Olympic sport status in 1988. The spory is now sport dominated by Asian countries such as China and Korea.

Changes in 2000 have seen the size of the table tennis ball increase from 38mm to 40mm with the aim to increase the ball's air resistance — effectively to slow the game down in an attempt to make it more spectator friendly. Further changes in 2001 saw a move from the traditional 21 point game to a first to eleven points game — although the 21 point game is still widely played at recreational level.

How playing table tennis gets your body fit

Playing table tennis can have a number of positive health and fitness benefits on your body. Here are some of its key exercise advantages:

  • Improves aerobic fitness, with more oxygen circulated around the body to better muscular endurance.
  • Burns off calories with energy being supplied to the muscles and not forming fat.
  • Boosting flexibility reaction times, due to the fast-paced nature of table tennis.
  • Improves hand-eye co-ordination with concentration required for serving and returning shots.
  • Develops the strength and power of muscles, notably leg and arm muscles.
  • Furthers concentration and mental strength, with matches often lasting for some time.
  • Improves nimbleness of players, on their feet.

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