Table tennis or ping pong is one of the most exciting sports for both players and spectators. The sport has its origins in England, but has soon been popularized around the world.
There are three major pieces of equipment needed:
- Paddle: Also known as the table tennis bat or racket, the paddle is made of two parts – the blade and the handle. The blade is what is used to strike the table tennis ball, and according to official regulations at least 85% needs to be made of natural wood.
- Table: The standard measurements of the table are 2.74 m length by 1.525 m width by 76 cm in height. The table is divided in half by a net 15.25 cm tall.
- Ball: Made of celluloid plastic and with a standard diameter of 40 mm, the table tennis ball should also bounce up 24-26 cm after being released from a height of 30.5 cm.
The game demands speed, dexterity and quick reactions, with a variety strategies possible from the grip to the stroke and spins used.
Why Play Table Tennis?
1. Table tennis improves hand-eye coordination
According to scientists, playing table tennis aids in stimulating the tactical strategy, mental alertness as well as concentration (1). This, therefore, aids in sharpening of reflexes in young people and refining of tactics in older people making the game perfect for the different age groups.
Improved coordination which results from the game plays an important role in perfecting the tactics of some particular occupations requiring different levels of hand-eye coordination such as computing.
Bottom line: Playing table tennis helps in improving coordination of different body parts which is used in different fields which include the occupational fields.
2. Table tennis helps develop mental acuity
The placement, spin and the speed of the ball are crucial during participation in the game so as to keep up with the pace and handle the opponent for longer periods. Mental acuity is highly developed by the three attributes which enable the participants of the game to be skillful in both creating and solving different puzzles relying upon the factors (2).
This also builds up the confidence needed in dealing with different kinds of occupational and life challenges that one needs to overcome the situations.
Bottom line: Playing ping-pong helps people to deal tactically with different problems requiring the application of personal tactical knowledge on something which is improved through the development of mental acuity.
3. Table tennis helps burn calories
Scientists have proven that someone who weighs approximately a hundred and fifty pounds is capable of burning 272 calories after an hour of playing table tennis (3). The sport is also considered by many to be addictive since it is entertaining and therefore a great helper in burning of calories in people who are not interested in other methods of calorie burning have fun while playing the game.
Bottom line: Playing table tennis helps to burn calories and therefore can be used as one way of weight loss and health maintenance.
4. Table tennis stimulates various parts of the brain
It is through the anticipation of the opponent’s shot that a player uses to stimulate the prefrontal cortex for strategic planning in different ways (4). In this manner, the aerobic exercise resulting from the physical activity of the game simulates the hippocampus that is responsible for formation and retention of long-term facts and events.
The brain parts stimulated portray the importance of the action whenever they are involved in performing specific functions where the execution is more accurate than before.
Bottom line: In playing table tennis, various brain parts are stimulated which in turn improves their efficiency in functioning.
5. Table tennis has lower risk of injury than other games
Science has proven that table tennis is one of the games which are played without much straining of the joints (5). This is because the game does not require heavy playing equipment, therefore, minimizing the risk of collisions and falls. Since the game is one of the few ones which offer people to indulge with fast movements with no much strain on the joints, it is, therefore, a perfect game for people recovering from joint injuries. The high-speed game provides an opportunity to involve the players in fast speed games resulting in the faster recovery of people with minor joint injuries.
Bottom line: Table tennis is a fast speed game which aids people to recover from joint injuries faster and results to minimal or no injuries of the players due to the light equipment used in playing it.
6. Table tennis improves social bonding
Through competing with various opponents while playing table tennis, different people from various physical grounds are provided an opportunity to physically interact. This interaction, in turn, results in the players creating friendship bonds which may be useful on different grounds. It also results to minimized loneliness since at some professional levels the players develop their fans who indirectly act as helpers in winning a game (6).
This reduction scientifically results to a decreased development of specific kinds of diseases caused by loneliness as well as depression. Whenever the game is played by family members, more time spent by them is boosted and therefore enabling people to reduce the effect of minimal time spent by family members such as relationships.
Bottom line: People who engage themselves in playing table tennis have a reduced level of loneliness which in turn leads to decreased depression. Family engagement in the game increases the time spent with the members and hence easily dealing with challenges resulting from low family focus such as husband-wife relationships.
7. Table tennis helps in treatment of dementia
According to numerous studies earlier carried out, table tennis is one of the games which results in activation of various areas of the brain. It is also found that by playing the game under some conditions where an overall state of awareness is greatly developed which require both the mental and physical alertness to work simultaneously (7).
In other studies, it has also been discovered that the community living in retirement homes and care facilities where table tennis has been introduced are mentally awakened. This has therefore resulted in the recommendation of the game as one of the treatment methods of dementia.
Bottom line: Introduction of table tennis in different care homes can be an effective way reduction of some brain diseases including dementia.
8. Table tennis helps in mood control
There is an immediate mood boost that happens to the participants of table tennis whenever they are being involved in the random exercise. Table tennis as one of the aerobic exercises boosts the mood by increasing the neurotransmitters that are decreased by depression (8).
These neurotransmitters are various vital chemicals present in the body and are associated with regulating various brain functions and whenever they are increased, their efficiency in functioning consequently increases.
The neurotransmitters are involved in stress responses, emotional responses, and mood and sleep regulation. Regular exercising in the game is also associated with reduced anxiety and depression over time on top of mood-boosting.
Bottom line: Playing table tennis is a great advantage to the participants as it regulates mood, stress, anxiety, and depression.
9. Table tennis improves memory
According to earlier scientific studies earlier carried out, table tennis as one of the many different aerobic activities raises the levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (9). This is a protein that promotes the growth and survival of a neuron thus eliminating some diseases such as the Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Other studies have proven that new brain cells are developed as one participates in the activity. There is also a steady development of new brain cells in the hippocampus of adults even if in most brains the initial brain cells that one was born with remain constant except that they develop. The exercise stimulates the brain cells to survive for long periods and in animals, physical exercises have correlated to an increase of various kinds of memory.
Bottom line: Table tennis aids in the lengthening of brain cells lifespan and consequently improving memory in humans as well as animals.
10. Table tennis improves attention
Playing table tennis frequently improves one’s ability to shift and focus attention. The attention developed in the anticipation of what next practices the participants to also develop attention in other sectors is also boosted increasing the efficiency in the areas (10).
Due to the non-discriminatory nature of the game in matters of sizes, ages, physical conditions and the levels of skills, everyone has an opportunity to develop the attention required in their areas quite easily.
Bottom line: Playing table tennis can be one of the few methods which can be used to improve the impact of attention by various groups of people especially the areas that require focus.
11. Table tennis increases grip strength
As the participants engage themselves in playing the game, they improve their hand grip strength. This is demonstrated whenever one applies much force to strike and the opponent is forced to tighten the grip in order to stop the ball (11). This improves the hand grip as well as strength which are basically applicable elsewhere in the day to day activities.
Bottom line: Handgrip strength is basically improved by playing table tennis regularly which in turn aids people to carry on challenging physical activities which require tight grips.
12. Table tennis increases blood flow in the body
Scientists have proven that through playing table tennis the blood flow in the human body is increased simultaneously. This is due to the fact the game requires activeness, alertness, and swiftness to keep up the pace of an opponent. The increased physical activeness results to an increased efficiency of blood circulation in the body. This, in turn, results in efficient body output while performing different activities in the long run specifically (12).
The blood transported is responsible for transport of food substances to the body cells and therefore increasing the blood flow increases the levels of nutrients supplied to the cells resulting in a stronger body which easily performs activities.
Bottom line: Frequent engagement in playing table tennis increases blood flow in a human’s body resulting from improved activeness while engaging in other outdoor activities.
13. Table tennis increases motivation
Table tennis as one of the various kinds of competitive games offers a field to stiff competition. Since the game is ideal for different age groups it offers an opportunity for students to engage in it. Whenever there is a competition, the winners are motivated to perform other tasks accurately due to the motivation resulting from winning the game stimulating the brain (13).
Children develop motivation in solving different tasks offered either at school or at home which is also correlated to the body activeness. They are also provided a ground for the development of positive self-esteem that they are capable of performing a certain task if probably they succeeded to win in a competition.
Bottom line: It follows that motivation is developed by participating in the game as well as increasing self-esteem in various age groups.
14. Table tennis improves decision-making skills
It is common to learn how to make decisions whenever one is involved in table tennis due to the doubt of where the ball will land next (14). This develops the mind of the players to be able -to make judgments after short periods of time as the game speeds. Participants are therefore trained by the game how to make and put into practice ideas using short periods of time which upon development improves the decision-making skills.
Bottom line: Table tennis helps players to improve their skills in making decisions to be applied significantly in various situations.
15. Table tennis improves cardiovascular health
Different studies earlier carried out have clearly shown that playing table tennis is greatly associated with cardiovascular health improvement. The quick movement of different body parts during the exercise which in turn aid in improving the health of human heart as the fat layer is maintained at the specific required level (15). By regulating the fat layer covering the vital organ, different heart diseases are regulated and also increase the efficiency of the heart to pump blood to the body parts.
Bottom line: according to different researchers, engagement in table tennis improves cardiovascular health which consequently increases the efficiency in blood pumping.
16. Table tennis improves eyesight
The speed of the ball experienced in playing table tennis plays an important role improving eyesight in order to focus on the ball for the purposes of maintaining the play. As published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who engage themselves in playing table tennis have lower percentages of developing cataracts which lead to vision loss (16).
The generalized game to all the age groups favors everyone whenever eyesight improvement is involved for various purposes. This is most effective whenever it comes to children whose cells are still developing.
Bottom line: Playing table tennis can be used as a method of eyesight improvement as it is a random exercise requiring one to be alert both mentally and physically especially the eyes and hands.
17. Table tennis improves flexibility
According to scientific researchers, the anticipation developed by the game is one of the factors that train people to be flexible mostly in making decisions. The uncertainty of where the opponent hits the ball may render one to decide to move on one side and the opponent hits on the opposite (17).
This, therefore, would make them make a quick decision to change their position as quick as possible to save the situation. The flexibility of both the mind and the body parts is quickly achieved and gives an opportunity for them to perform tasks changing after short periods of time which involves educational purposes.
Bottom line: Body and mental flexibility can be increased through participating in some indoor games such as table tennis.
18. Table tennis improves balance
Different researches have proven that playing table tennis has an advantage of protecting the participants’ knees and tendons. This, therefore, means that as one of the active games such as running and bike riding helps to maintain balance for both the young generation and the old age (18).
The balance consequently reduces the likelihood of falling and breaking of the vital joints such as the hip joints.
Bottom line: Participating in table tennis helps to boost balance which significantly reduces the fall and bone breakage likelihood.
19. Table tennis strengthens body muscles
Through playing table tennis, both hand and leg muscles are strengthened due to the swift movement of the body parts (19). The change of positions of limbs exercises the muscles involved resulting in a boost of their strength and ability to carry out various functions. The game is also effective in developing the growing muscles in young people engaging in playing it.
Depending on the intensity of participating in the game, body muscles are strengthened and their abilities to perform their functions effected as well.
Bottom line: Playing table tennis boosts muscle strength and also prevents muscle loss as people age and their structure development in young people.
20. Table tennis extends the life of elderly people
Some studies have shown that the life of elderly people is extended whenever they participate in the game frequently. Since the game is not much straining, people in their old ages do not face many challenges while playing it provided that they maintain a controllable pace (20).
Through the engagement in the game, old people develop some motivation and reduce the loneliness levels indicating that they are quite important as well as other people significantly reducing the loss of people due to stress.
Bottom line: Introduction of the game in healthcare institutions develops an impact of lengthening their lifespan as they reduce their stress as well as cubing depression.
21. Table tennis increases one’s stamina levels
Increasing one’s stamina levels is another health advantage of being involved in playing table tennis. This is as a result of longer period engagement in the active game as the body parts are exercised by strengthening of tendons. Hand engagement in young people results in an increase in the bone deposition and distribution of calcium to different organs (21). With the strong bones and tendons, the capability to perform duties in need of body stamina is improved significantly.
Bottom line: It is therefore evident that playing table tennis results to an increase in the body stamina improving the efficiency of other activities.
22. Table tennis improves joint health
The continuous joint movement throughout the period of playing table tennis improves the joint health due to the motion change frequently to reach the ball. During the physical activity accompanied by the game, joints are stressed causing then to stress together providing individual benefit to the players (22). This also reduces the risk of osteoarthritis in both the elbows and the knees caused by joint idleness.
Bottom line: Joint health is increased by playing table tennis as well as reducing the likelihood of osteoarthritis.
23. Table tennis strengthens the body core
Science has also proven that table tennis as an exercise is not only important in working out muscles involved in the activity but also those found in the spine as one of the deeper and also its sensitivity (23).
Other inner cores found in the arms and suction muscles in the gut are also improved as well and thus contributing to the development of a higher percentage workout of inner body cores.
Bottom line: Table tennis players maximize the advantage of improving the general body workout resulting from frequent playing as well.
24. Table tennis improves short-range vision
Another health benefit resulting from the game is the improvement of short-range vision. As the game trains people to be flexible in making decisions and to focus on what one is doing, it also improves skills of eye change position and focus (24). This happens because the ball changes its position throughout the game enables the eyes to make frequent changes in distant vision which is also initiated by speed.
Bottom line: Table tennis not only improves eyesight but is also essential in improving the short-range vision enabling one to shift focus from time to time at a faster rate.
25. Table tennis releases endorphins
As a physical activity, table tennis playing plays a part in the release of endorphins from the pituitary gland of the brain. The release of the combination of morphine and ‘endogenou’ during any strenuous activity helps to relieve pain and induce the feelings of euphoria or pleasure (25). Emotional stresses, as well as orgasm, are relieved whenever one involves himself in the game.
Bottom line: Playing the game aids in the release of endorphins improving the mental condition of people frequently playing it.
26. Table tennis requires short bursts of energy
Similarly to high-intensity interval training, table tennis does not require high levels of energy for long periods of time as it is played for short periods (26). This, therefore, makes it advantageous to the elderly and children who cannot cope up with long periods of a random physical activity. However, the activeness of the game makes it efficient in burning calories and weight loss as various parts are engaged simultaneously.
Bottom line: As compared to other games such as football, table tennis takes short periods of time and thus making it require short bursts of energy and making it non-strenuous to children and the elderly as well.
27. Table tennis improves the body’s reflexes
Table tennis is usually a fast paced, and very short distance sport. Swift, gross and fine muscle movements are required for this sport. This helps to improve these reflex characteristic movements (27). The sport has a distinction of bursts of recovery and exertion which improves the swiftness of the player and the development of fast-twitch muscle. This eventually improves the body’s reflexes.
Bottom Line: Due to the fast pace and short distance nature of the sport, it leads to fast-twitch muscle development and improves the body’s reflexes.
28. Table tennis acts as a social outlet
Regardless of the setting in which table-tennis is played, whether at home with friends and family or in the community, table tennis is such a great way to bond with other people while at the same time gaining from the other benefits it offers. Due to the provision of the game to be played by both young and old people, it can help to improve communication and strengthen bonds between members of the community or members of the family (27). More so, playing the game with siblings and parents can strengthen bonds and enable the family to spend quality time together.
Bottom Line: Playing table-tennis with other people in the community and relatives helps to improve communication, strengthen their bonds and helps them to spend quality time together.
29. Table tennis keeps the brain sharp
It has been reported in Alzheimer’s Weekly that there is a clear increase in cognitive awareness and motor skills from the playing of table tennis. This was after a series of initial clinical studies in Japan established that table tennis improves blood flow to the brain, alongside its possibility to even prevent dementia (28).
Bottom Line: The sport has been proven to increase motor skills and cognitive awareness according to clinical studies conducted in Japan.
30. Table tennis helps in weight loss
The sport is both addictive and entertaining and can, therefore, be used to burn a lot of calories in a fun and easy way. Although the calorie burning is lower than in singles tennis, the risk of injury is considerably lower in table tennis. Table tennis at a high speed can burn 270 calories in an average-weight person as well as improving concentration and reflexes (29). This helps in shedding some weight, helps the cardiovascular system and improves the overall level of fitness.
Bottom Line: The sport through burning calories can be used as a fun and easy way losing some weight.
31. Table tennis increases mental alertness
Due to the fast pace of the game, the sport requires total concentration and alertness on the ball with an excellent coordination of the hand and eyes. This means that table tennis can help to significantly increase mental concentration and alertness. A mounting amount of evidence shows that table tennis stimulates various different parts of the brain at the same time (30). This is why it has been stated that table tennis is the best sport for the brain by The American Museum of Natural History.
Bottom Line: The fast pace of the sport requires total concentration and alertness on the ball with and thus helps to increase one’s mental alertness.
32. Table tennis restores energy
As age catches up with people, their ability to concentrate on tasks for long periods lowers and that is the reason why while working on a task, people need many frequent breaks to regain energy and be able to focus. Many people know that these breaks are important but few know what to do during those breaks. Apart from drinking water and eating some fruits during those breaks, a quick match of table tennis with a fellow worker can improve the effects of the break (31).
Table tennis helps one to restore energy quickly and sharpen the focus by stimulating different brain areas which in a way rejuvenates one’s brain capacities.
Bottom Line: A quick match of table tennis with a colleague during a break can help one to rejuvenate the brain’s capacities other than taking water and eating fruits.
33. Table tennis can be played at home
Table tennis as a sport is ideal for interaction between parents and their children since it can be played by different generations. Spending more time with a person is well understood as the key to a good relationship with them. In the present day, activities that can unite members of the family – parents, and children – are few and thus table tennis is one great idea for doing at home to retain the connection between the parents and the children (29).
Bottom Line: Table tennis is a good activity that can be done at home so as to create a good relationship between parents and their children.
34. Table tennis improves coordination
By following the fast pace of the ball as it moves towards the player’s direction as well as following the ball’s trajectory as the opponent hits it back helps a lot in improving coordination between the eyes and the hands. This also fine-tunes the players’ motor skills control. Regular playing of the sport results in an expansion of the regions which are associated with hand-eye coordination (27, 32).
Bottom Line: Following the ball as it charges towards you and following its trajectory as it moves back and forth across the table enhances your hand-eye coordination.
35. Table tennis increases overall fitness levels
Table tennis comes in handy for people of all ages, sex, ability and physical fitness. The high-intensity cardiovascular activity involved in the sport strengthens the heart and tones muscles of the core in the anterior and the posterior parts of the body. Table tennis can be fairly considered as one of the most remarkable aerobic exercises. Playing also has gentle effects on the body which makes it suitable if one has bruises, constraints, and broken joints (32).
Since the sport is both fun to play as well as addictive, table tennis can revitalize the cardiovascular system, improve the immune system as well as increase the overall fitness level.
Bottom Line: Table tennis generally contributes to increasing the overall fitness levels by rejuvenating the cardiovascular system boosting the immune system among others.
Tips for Beginners
1. Be aware of the spin which is on the ball
This is a skill which helps to determine the manner in which to return the ball according to the spin on the ball. The spin on the ball can be determined by observing the opponent’s racket as it comes into contact with the ball. If the racket of the opponent is moved in a direction from down to up, the spin on the ball is a topspin; if it moves from up to down, it is a backspin; from his or her right to the left, it is a left sidespin and finally from his or her left to the right, it is a right sidespin (33).
2. Compensate for the spin with your racket angle
Having learned how to observe the spin on the ball from the opponent’s manner of hitting the ball, the skill which comes in handy next I to know how to compensate for that spin. If it is a topspin, your leading racket should be angled face down and make contact with the ball just below its center; if the spin is a backspin, the leading racket should be angled face up and should also make contact with the ball below its center; if it is a left sidespin, the leading face should be angled to the left and make contact with the ball to the right of its mid-line; if it is a right sidespin, the leading racket should face to the right and make contact with the ball to the left of its mid-line.
When the racket is placed in the correct position, it is then stroked gently forward (33). When one has become used to the spins and how to compensate for them, the ball can be stroked with more force.
3. Use the whole body when you stroke your forehand
When stroking your forehand, make sure that you rotate the shoulders and the hips forward as well and not only the arm as this significantly limits your consistency and power. Make sure that the whole body – hips and shoulders – rotates backward during the backswing. The forehand stroke is a motion coordinated with a transfer of the body weight from the back foot to the front foot.
4. Retain a proper set position
A proper set position is usually when you are balanced and your body is prepared to instantly move to any direction. Always retain a proper and ready position when returning serves and also in between the strokes. First, make sure you are standing in a good, ready position then move to the ball with your feet while maintaining balance. Stroke the ball and then return to a ready position waiting for the next strike. Repeat these actions in that sequence throughout the rally.
5. Automate your strokes
This is usually achieved after a lot of practice where you no longer have to think about how to make a stroke. Initially, you use a lot of mental energy to get used to a newly-learned skill and to familiarize yourself with the look and feel. This passes with time as you enter the “automatic stage” which is where performance is optimal since you don’t have to analyze your skill, you just let it be (33).
6. Own your racket
Each racket has a unique feel and characteristics when playing. It is therefore good to get used to one racket so that you don’t have to always try to adapt to a new racket. Get your own personal racket and own it exclusively. Treat the racket with respect and store it properly in a case when you are not using it. Also, keep it clean by washing it with a little amount of soap and water or a special racket cleaner after every use especially if you are using the smooth surface.
7. Develop sidespin serves
This is one of the best methods of service which is almost guaranteed to succeed. Not many beginners use the sidespin for serving but it is very commonly used by many top players. In most cases, the sidespin is combined with either a topspin or a backspin. Pure sidespin is not very common in table tennis. A combination of a sidespin and a backspin served low to the net and bouncing twice on the opponent’s side severely limits the opponent’s serve return options.
8. Keep the returns low over the net
Returning the ball low over the net gives your opponent less angle and makes it more difficult for him or her to hit it with power. However, when using lobs, the ball is placed high over the net and as close to the end of the table as possible (33).
9. Practice more than competing
Practicing involves concentrating on a particular aspect of the sport which you would like to strengthen. The objective of this is to develop your game. On the contrary, the objective of a competition is winning. Therefore, it is not advisable to play competitive matches if you wish to develop a specific aspect of your game.
10. Join a table tennis club
This helps you to interact with other people of similar interest and desires and also in this way acquire new skills from them. It is also good to regularly test your progress by competing with players of a higher ability. A club also provides interaction with people you can schedule to practice regularly with.
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Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.