Claude Bernard , in ‘An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine’ stated that “the maintenance of life is critically dependent on keeping our internal milieu constant in the face of a changing environment.” Life, per se, cannot be constant. It’s dynamic and so are the situations that we have to face. Stress arises when this internal milieu (internal environment) of ours is disturbed by the external turbulences. With the changing times and the ‘new normal’ (whatever that is) slowly creeping into our lives, our tolerance to the external environment is getting lowered, and thus, the level of stress is boosting up. As per the American Physiology Association, about 44% of adults claim that their stress level has boosted up pretty much in the last 5 years. These numbers go back to 2010, so, it’s presumable that the figures must have sky-rocketed in the past few years. Especially in times like this when nothing seems certain anymore.
Ever since the world got locked-up as a preventive measure against Coronavirus, physicians, psychologists, and even the World Health Organisation added ‘stress’ to their potential hazard or symptoms of the disease list. It’s no nonsense to ignore. With humans getting isolated, getting stressed is a thing one can very easily predict to become a part of our lives.
We tend to lean towards various methods to cope with this stress, some positive and some negative. Some tend to find hobbies and interests to divert their minds, while others just choose to numb themselves up. Well, when it comes to hobbies, I believe, there can’t be anything better than a sport to drain this stress out. A good sport not only does wonders to the physical health but also make our mental and emotional system better. One such amazingly beneficial sport is Ping Pong (or, Table Tennis; whatever you want to call it). It’s a sport that looks seamless as we watch it, but is equally focus and energy-demanding when you actually play it. When your body drains, you’re struggling to catch a breath and your mind thinks of nothing but to get the shot right, that’s where you know you aren’t really worried about your adversity any more (at least for that particular amount of time).
Having said that, let’s just list 5 reasons why Ping Pong is said to be the ultimate stress buster.
- Ping Pong makes you feel good about yourself
Take it as a physical exercise, or simply a hobby that you like spending time for, either way, Ping Pong does nothing but fills your life with positivity. When you are playing, there’s a time that you are thinking about something that’s not happening right for you, and then suddenly you hit the shot right and win the match. You instantly feel uplifted and feel great about yourself.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits. It pumps up your endorphins.” Playing Ping Pong is no less than a physical exercise, and acts the same way any other physical activity works on our physical and emotional health. They also add, “Physical activity may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, any aerobic activity, such as a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike, can contribute to this same feeling.”
So, in a way, this little victory or just the fact that you are good at the game transfers the confidence to this ‘other you’ who wasn’t ready to deal with the adversity a while ago. That’s how Ping Pong works. It makes you feel great about yourself.
- It’s simple yet highly effective
Rather than running for a tough exercise, that doesn’t just take loads of your time but also demands a lot of monetary investment, it’s always easier to pick a sport that doesn’t come as expensive. To play Ping Pong you hardly have to spend $50. You need a table, a ball and some cheap paddles and well, a partner, and you are good to go. If not that you can always get a table that can be folded up to playback mode, and then you wouldn’t even need a partner to have fun. You can check out Ping Pong Beast to get some amazing options for a Ping Pong table. So, it’s an easy, affordable sport with amazing physical and mental health benefits.
- Ping Pong reduces anxiety
According to the American Psychological Association anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” When someone comes across a potentially harming or worrying situation, the trigger of anxiety arises, which is not just normal but also essential for survival.
The approach of the predator or a dangerous situation, since the earliest times, alarms the prey to escape. That’s anxiety. The danger leads to an “adrenalin rush, which in turn, triggers these anxious reactions in a process called the “fight-or-flight’ response. This prepares humans to physically confront or flee any potential threats to safety”, states an article in the Medical News Today. In current situations, work, education, family, peer group, anything and everything can induce stress in a human being. Studies from the University of Illinois found that once we are working on a single task for a long time, our body and mind gets “habituated” to the image, sound and climate of the surrounding. These can lead to the inducing of stressful thoughts. Likewise, studying for long hours, doing chores at home or even sitting idle for too long can give out stress and anxiety.
A short break, like playing Ping Pong for a while can prove to be really relaxing in these situations. When you play Ping Pong, your mind doesn’t get the space to wonder, hence you neither feel cluttered nor completely aloof. There’s this balance in your mental and emotional state which leaves no chance for anxiety.
- Ping Pong lightens your mood
Playing Ping Pong boosts and lightens one’s mood. An increase in neurotransmitters in the brain is caused by aerobic activity (scientifically proven). The neurotransmitters are chemicals that are related to various brain-functions and hormone secretion like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. With this, Ping Pong also puts our brain into movement and erases all the numbness caused by stress.
The Harvard Medical School also supports this statement adding that a few rounds of Ping Pong indirectly elevates mood, reduces stress, and improves sleep patterns.
- Ping Pong’s great for the brain
The part of brain functioning that co-ordinates mind and bodily movements is known as motor control. The speed and unpredictability in Ping Pong require a lot of mental and physical power. While playing Ping Pong, our body and mind automatically begin to train themselves to perform better. This motor control then, also improve our reflexes, which not only helps us in Ping Pong but also in real-life situations.
Physical activities, like Ping Pong, trigger the growth of new brain cells (in the hippocampus) and help us live a long, healthy life. It raises the level of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) in the brain, which is a protein responsible for neuron growth and overall, survival.
A study in Japan, in 1997 proved that 15 minutes of playing Ping Pong can stimulate the brain and improve human reflexes, which can even help the patients of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to recover really fast.
So, all in all, with Ping Pong we get to strengthen our brain and improve our reflexes, and so, whenever we come across stressful situations, our mind knows exactly how to react and deal with it. This leaves with least chance of us getting trapped in the vicious circle of stress and anxiety.
There is nothing a match of Ping Pong cannot fix! For a long time, the benefits of this sport have been underrated. But with the advancing times, Ping Pong has gained its place in the files of various neurologists and psychologists. So, may it be a phase of your life where everything seems traumatizing, a bad deal at office, a failure in academics, a lockdown or just a midlife crisis, Ping Pong has the potential to clear out all the dark clouds for you.