A 2008 Forbes research project ranked squash as the number one sport for your overall health, but what exactly are the health benefits and where are they coming from?
Played with a good level of commitment, squash is a very intense sport requiring fast bursts of cardiovascular energy, quick turns, deep lunges and full body flexibility. The benefits can be huge if played regularly once or twice a week, and for maximum health benefits combine with a strong training plan elsewhere (check out our squash training plan guide for more on this).
For these reasons, Squash came out top of these 10 sports highlighted in the Forbes survey:
3. Rock Climbing
5. Cross-country Skiing
9. Modern Pentathlon
The 2008 Forbes study reported that “30 minutes on the squash court provides an impressive cardio respiratory workout. Extended rallies and almost constant running builds muscular strength and endurance in the lower body, while lunges, twists and turns increase flexibility in the back and abdomen. For people just getting into the game, it’s almost too much to sustain, but once you get there, squash is tremendous.”
There typically aren’t many times during a squash match where the pace slows down, so your heart is working hard for a prolonged period of time. This is great for your cardiovascular endurance and also great if you’re looking at the calorie burning stats; over 1,000 calories can be burnt off in 60 high intensity minutes on the court, a huge number for such a relatively short time exercising.
Squash is in a select group of sports which give your whole body a high quality workout:
• ARMS – particularly whichever arm you hold your racquet in, will get a great workout playing a shot every few seconds. When you play at a good level, shots are played hard and rapidly and really work your arm all the way down.
• WRISTS – again this only applies to your racquet side, but some hard shots aimed for the back of the court take some strong and enduring grip on the racquet handle. We recommend you check out the ‘Powerball’ to improve your grip very quickly.
• CORE – squash is excellent for improving your core strength and stability. Consistent movement in all directions, lunges forward and backwards, and the twisting motion in playing a shot work your core muscles impressively.
• LEGS – quite an obvious benefit here, but it’s important to emphasise the unique benefits squash offers to working your leg muscles. Plain running doesn’t even compare, with the extra lunges for shots thrown in together with the stop-start motions comparable to a strong High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) plan.
Flexibility is an important aspect for your overall health, and often goes hand in hand with your balance and stability. Squash requires good flexibility to play at a good level, and tricky to reach shots will really push the boundaries of your flexibility, particularly in your hamstrings and hip-flexors.
Benefits in this area can be slower to notice than the others, but after a few months playing squash regularly you’ll soon notice you can reach shots you didn’t used to, and reach further than you ever could before.
So get out there on the squash court and enjoy the benefits of your effort!
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