What’s the Best Sport for Brain Health?

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What’s worse than not being able to “see the forest for the trees?”  When you can’t even see the tree because you’re too focused on the bark.

I came across an article recently touting the “world’s best brain sport” so of course I was immediately intrigued.

What is it? Ping pong. Table tennis.  Here’s why this conclusion was reached, why it is not quite correct, and how this can help you with your brain health.

Studies Show…

  • Table tennis (air quote) “uniquely” activated as many as 5 different brain regions in a study of 3,000 older players. Researchers observed physical, mental, and emotional improvements.
  • Before-and-after cognitive tests and brain scans on healthy men and women over age 60 who played ping pong for one hour twice a week for 10 weeks showed improved cognitive scores, growth of neurons in the hippocampus, and increased thickness of the cortex.
  • A small study of Parkinson’s patients, average age 73, who played table tennis once a week for six months showed improved eye-hand coordination and sharpened reflexes.

In summary, table tennis enhances brain function as described above because it involves:

  • Fine motor control
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Strategic planning
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Social interaction
  • Uncertainty

Somebody should invent other sports that feature the same characteristics right away! 

Hurry, someone invent tennis, pickleball, volleyball, soccer/football, futsal, ice skating, hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, racquetball, basketball, train running, baseball, and cricket.

What? Those sports already exist?  That’s a relief. 

Yes, table tennis is great for brain health (in addition to body health). But so is any other activity that features the same characteristics. 

If we lose sight of the trees for the bark – forget even knowing there’s a forest – we miss a lot of opportunity to do some good for ourselves by taking an unnecessarily narrow view and creating an arbitrary distinction of “best.” 

Just make sure you find something to do that involves the characteristics listed above AND make sure it is something you enjoy.  That is the BEST activity for brain health for YOU

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