What Are the Health Benefits of Ping Pong?

Updated: 03/04/21 •  6 min read

It may seem like a silly question on the face of things. After all, it’s a bit like asking “is exercise good for you?”. However, what we’re here to talk about today are the specifics. Obviously, any sport is going to burn calories and get your heart rate up, but every different sport also has some different unique benefits just because of how it’s played compared to other options.

So, without further ado, let’s go over the primary things that set table tennis health benefits over other types of sports.

Cardio, Muscle Gain, and Weight Loss

Obvious ones, but well worth talking about. As with any sport, there’s a mix of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise inherent in ping pong. This makes table tennis a varied and effective workout that builds muscle definition while shedding weight, and increases stamina while you’re at it.

As with any sport it doesn’t necessarily replace the need for other types of exercise, but it does provide a fun and easily repeated method of making general health gains, and the most important thing about exercise is that it be fun, so you’re more motivated to keep doing it.

Coordination and Reflexes

The two go hand in hand, and these are the primary benefits of increasing your skill in ping pong.

There are a few differences between tennis and table tennis, and on of the biggest ones is, perhaps ironically, how small the playing field is. While ping pong balls move significantly slower than tennis balls (“only” around 80 miles an hour, as compared to around 160 miles an hour for tennis balls), the surface is also significantly smaller.

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A top-notch ping pong table is 9 feet long as the standard tournament length; by comparison a tournament standard tennis court is 130 feet long. That’s a bit over 14 times the length, meaning that even though the ball moves half the speed, you need around 7 times greater reaction time to play a rousing game of ping pong at the professional level.

Even if you’re just playing a friendly game, you need to develop insanely good twitch reflexes quickly to keep up with the speed the ball is moving over such short distances.

These types of reflexes are helpful in pretty much every facet of your life, from other leisure activities (first-person shooter video games and racquet ball, for instance) and even in your daily life (dodging falling objects and the like). Many players say that they like ping pong because it gives you a whole-body workout, and the benefit is the skills that you learn can be transferred to real-life situations.

These twitch reflexes grow alongside your hand eye coordination as well, giving you the ability to make a multitude of split decisions (where to hit the ball, how hard, with how much spin, in what directions, etc.) quickly and execute them almost instinctively; something else that helps immensely in daily life, particular with dangerous but necessary activities like driving.

Studies have even proven that ping pong and other sports can improve mental health. This development of the frontal cortex is vital in most decision making endeavors, whether it’s ping pong, the aforementioned driving, or even something as leisurely as chess and as dangerous as escaping a burning building. The ability to analyze a situation quickly and act decisively is one of the most important skills a person can learn, and being able to practice it in a safe, low stakes environment is a great opportunity.

Recuperative Training

Table tennis is a low impact, high versatility sport. This makes it perfect for people recovering from some kind of injury, or suffering from a chronic pain or mobility illness.

Whether it’s arthritis, muscle atrophy, or something else, ping pong makes for excellent and fun exercise for people looking to get back into the groove of exercising without the agony that many types of high impact exercise can provide.

Even better, it will often help to alleviate the negative effects of these issues over time, making you feel better in other aspects of your life. It incorporates a lot of gentle stretches into the routine, with simple and repeated motions that dovetail well with the limited capabilities of the elderly or injured.

These benefits aren’t just apparent on the physical side, either: they’re perfect for mental “atrophy” as well. As mentioned above, ping pong is great for training the brain, enhancing quick reflexes and decision making. It’s also perfect for engaging the memory centers of the brain and all around increasing blood flow to it, with marked mental benefits.

Table tennis is an excellent mental and physical workout for patients with Alzheimer’s or other degenerative brain conditions, and can lead to healthier, happier, longer lives. Health professional just needs to make sure that their ping pong equipment fit the patient’s needs, such as: the tables should be at the right height, the correct thickness of the paddle is observed and many other factors.

Balance

A little overlooked benefit of table tennis is the increased balance. Ping pong isn’t a game that requires as much running around as its full court counterpart, tennis, but it does require a lot of repeated shifts in balance from side to side to catch balls going all over the place.

This is a great lower body workout, and a quick way to ensure that your feet move as quickly as your head, or even faster once muscle memory starts to check in.

If nothing else, enough good games of ping pong can help ensure you never go sprawling whole standing up on a train or bus!

Social Benefits

Do you know that making it a habit to go to the gym or play sports sports like ping pong can positively impacts your outlook in life? Mental health is just as important as physical health, and nothing hurts a person more than extended isolation from other people. Humans are social animals, and no matter how introverted you might think you are, social interaction in a setting you’re comfortable with is necessary and recommended for anyone.

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As a sport that requires at least two (and as many as 4!) people to play, ping pong provides an excellent way to make new friends and bind old groups of friends together with an activity that all can partake in. Reducing the amount of time you spend in isolation in a controlled environment can make you more motivated in your daily life. That is why getting a ping pong table is a must-have for any office because playing the game can reduce stress and improve collaboration among peers.

Charlie head image

Charlie Nguyen

Ping Pong Professional & Site Founder

Tom Erickson