Why is Ping Pong Good for Your Brain?

When someone suggests you get more exercise, you likely see yourself jogging, cycling or among all the other sweaty people in the gym. If so, you might want to learn more about why health experts regard ping pong as the best brain sport there is. The fact is that it is a fast, physical game with an endless list of physical and cognitive benefits.

Ping pong provides lower and upper body aerobics; it also exercises reflexes and hand-eye coordination. While all this happens, your brain works overtime to track the ball, plans strategies and shots, and figure out the correct return shot for tricky spins coming your way.

How does ping pong exercise your brain?

Some say playing ping pong or table tennis is like playing aerobic chess. It utilizes numerous areas of the brain throughout a ping pong game, one of which is the hippocampus that manages your memory. Let’s highlight how some areas of the brain help you play a good game of table tennis.

Eye-hand coordination:

Every time you strike the ball, your Cerebellum gets to work. It is the part of your brain responsible for the coordination of voluntary movements. Combine that with the function of the parietal lobes to achieve perfect eye-hand coordination.

Visual perception:

Along with the parietal lobes, the occipital lobes work to follow the ball coming your way at high speed. It is the part of the brain that manages visual perception, including form, color and motion. To clarify, if you suffered brain trauma the caused damage to the occipital lobe, locating an object in an environment could be challenging. The same parts of your brain are necessary for watching and figuring out a spin shot from your opponent.

Strategize and plan:

As that spin shot approaches at a speed that could reach 90 mph, your brain’s prefrontal cortex kicks in to plan and strategize your next shot. With the help of the Cerebellum coordinating your voluntary movements, you can then follow through with executing the perfect return shot.

Control of emotions:

While all this happens at breakneck speed, you cannot afford to let your nervousness jeopardize your chances of winning. This is where your basal ganglia steps in. It controls your behavior and emotions.

Dealing with mistakes:

To prevent you from dwelling on earlier mistakes or blowing your top if you blew a point, your anterior cingulated gyrus will do its job, motivating you and monitoring error and conflict management.

Keep in mind that all the above-mentioned brain activities happen with every ball coming your way and every return ball you execute.

Furthermore, you would know that merely repeating the same shot throughout the game would quickly have your opponent knowing what to expect. Fortunately, the brain’s prefrontal cortex can help you figure out varying strategies on the go as the game proceeds.

How much do you know about your happy hormones?

Whenever you enjoy what you are doing, your brain releases endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel happy. Participating in a game of ping pong gives your brain multiple reasons to release endorphins. These include the fun of sharing time with a friend, the feel-good effect of exercising and socializing with others present at the venue.

The more you play, the better your skills will become, and, let’s face it, there’s nothing that beats the pleasure of scoring a win. That, right there, is just one more reason for your brain to let the happy hormones flow.

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Riley Draper

Avid table tennis player, world traveler, and content creator. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn.