Why Squash Is The Healthiest Sport
Squash is a fast-moving racquet-based game that has been around for more than 150 years and, over the last half-century or so, has become more popular and rated as one of the healthiest sports in the world, and for a good reason!
Squash is the healthiest sport because it burns the most calories, uses all the body muscles, promotes mental focus and cardiovascular health, increases your strength and flexibility, improves your posture, boosts your metabolism, and above all that – it’s fun to play!
It may surprise many that squash offers many physical and mental health benefits, more than cycling, swimming, CrossFit, and other high-intensity sports. So let’s get on the court and find out why squash is the healthiest sport.
Forbes Rated Squash The Healthiest Sport Back In 2003
The idea that squash is one of the healthiest sports took center stage in 2003 when Forbes magazine studied the top 10 healthiest sports, and squash came in at number one!
Forbes rated each sport over these six independent categories, and each was given a score between 1 and 5, with five being excellent and one being poor. Injuries were rated on a scale of 1-3, with three being low and one being high:
- Injury risk
- Calories burned over 30 minutes
- Muscle Endurance
- Cardio Endurance
The top five healthiest sports and their overall scores in that study were:
- Squash – 22.5
- Rowing – 22
- Rock climbing – 22
- Swimming – 20.75
- Cross Country Skiing – 20.5
What Makes Squash The Healthiest Sport
Many factors contribute to squash being the healthiest sport, so let’s look at them in a little more detail.
Squash Is A Fantastic Cardio Workout
For many people today, maintaining cardio health is critical. While not everyone is keen on cycling, rowing, swimming, or CrossFit, a thirty-minute squash game will improve your cardio health and heart strength.
This is because squash is classified as a HIIT sport, punctuated with periods of short bursts of high-intensity and other periods of less strenuous play. During a game of squash, there will be cycles where your heart rate will climb to close to maximum and then drops back to a lower rate and repeat.
This means that your heart muscles get a great workout, and you will sweat profusely, improving your stamina as you play. Another great aspect of this game is that you don’t have to be uber fit to play; you will get a great cardio workout regardless of your age and skill level!
Because of the high intensity of the game, anyone with cardiovascular issues should consult their doctor before taking up the game, as high-intensity sessions have been known to cause heart attacks. Still, if you get the all-clear, you can start slowly and reach a good fitness level.
Playing Squash Can Reduce Cholesterol
The nature of the game and the elevated heart rate levels will often result in lower cholesterol levels too! This additional benefit is one of the main reasons many people with this condition take up the game.
Regular games played twice or three times a week will not only leave you feeling healthier but will also work to reduce cholesterol levels, especially when coupled with a sensible diet!
Squash Uses All The Body’s Muscle Groups
Squash has a good cardio workout because you will run and sprint in short bursts, but squash is one of the few racket sports where ALL your muscle groups are needed and used during play. Like swimming, rowing, and CrossFit, you will use your arms, back, legs, and core during squash, building and toning muscle.
If you are looking to rather build big muscles, you should be in the gym, but squash is a great option for lean muscle development. A game of squash is a full-body workout; even your brain muscle is used during the game!
Squash Is An Excellent Sport For Weight Loss
Many people are looking for a fun and exciting way to lose weight and burn calories. For some, sitting on the bike for four hours, running, swimming, rowing or skiing may not be their cup of tea, but squash burns the most calories in a 30-minute session.
The Forbes study showed that a person weighing 190lbs would burn 517 calories in a thirty-minute session! This was streaks ahead of the next closest sport, rock climbing, which burned 475 calories in the same period.
As a beginner, you would start slowly, of course, but even at a slower pace, you would burn a good amount of calories during the game. This is because you use all the muscle groups and are swinging a racket, plus you need to focus and concentrate, which burns more calories.
If weight loss is your goal and you don’t want a mundane and boring activity, give squash a go!
Squash Has A Medium Risk Of Injury
While you are more at risk from injury in sports like cycling, basketball, and running, squash does have some chance of injury, and these are mostly caused by impact with the wall or your opponent, getting hit by a racket (yours or the opponent’s) and getting hit by the ball.
The rubber ball will certainly leave a bruise if it hits you, and you also have some risk of twisting your ankle or other muscular and joint strains. However, these injuries are light and mostly avoidable once you get fitter and stronger and get a better sense of where and how to position yourself and how to move during play.
Injuries in squash are generally not serious, and the Forbes study listed the injury rating for the game at a median level of two- where a rating of one was high risk, and three was low risk.
Squash Improves Flexibility, Agility, And Posture
If you have watched a cat play with a ball at high speed and admired its amazing agility, then squash is the game for you. Any sport that improves overall flexibility, posture, and agility is very healthy as this promotes good energy flow through the body and decreases the risk of injury.
Playing squash will slowly build your core strength, and this, in turn, will benefit your posture. Because so many people spend their days hunched over computers at work and kids on their tablets or phones, modern people tend to suffer more from posture-related issues than before.
Squash improves flexibility by making you stretch for the ball and maneuver yourself around the court and the opponent to improve your on-court agility. Stretching and warming up before a game is a critical aspect of preventing injury in squash, but during the game, your body will be stretched and flexed as you play shots and reach for the ball.
As your overall strength improves, you will have better posture, stand straighter, and in doing so will allow for better breathing as your lungs are now not compressed by poor spinal positions when sitting, standing, or exercising – just another reason squash is the healthiest sport.
Aside from the physical elements, squash also offers mental health benefits, so let’s explore those benefits.
Squash Is A Good Stress Reliever
Squash is a highly competitive game, and for people with a high-stress lifestyle, squash offers relief from this unhealthy condition. Firstly, you get to hit the ball, which is a great way to relieve frustration and blow off steam.
Regular squash games will contribute to stress relief as you can let go of the world and its troubles for an hour and get a great workout, but the social element of the game is another way squash reduces stress.
Unlike running or cycling, which are more solo sports, squash gives you an opponent. Because you are generally playing at a club, you will meet other people from different walks of life who love the game, which adds a very positive social element to squash.
While not everyone wants to play league and develop that social aspect, being around people and having fun is a way to de-stress, wind down, and even make new friends!
Squash Will Boost Your Confidence And Motivation
The chemicals released in your brain during squash are the ‘feel-good’ hormones, which add a sense of well-being and happiness to your mood. This makes you feel good after the game and motivates you to keep playing.
You will feel more confident on and off the court as you get better at the game and develop your fitness, technical skills, and strategy. Your productivity will also improve as your overall general sense of well-being grows due to the positive effects of physical exercise.
Squash Improves Your Mental Focus And Concentration
Because squash incorporates several physical and mental elements during play, you will be challenged to remain awake and alert at all times as you have to be aware of where the ball is relative to you (so you don’t get hit), where your opponent is and be able to react quickly to shots and positional play during the game.
This aspect of squash means that your brain is working during play and resting during the short breaks before the next rally starts. Aside from the on-court awareness, there are also aspects of game strategy that you need to focus on.
Following and tracking a fast-moving ball with your eyes for thirty minutes or more means you have to increase and maintain your focus levels throughout the game, aside from the calories your brain will burn, you need to be present and not have any outside thoughts in your head.
This is like meditation; you’re not sitting quietly in some tranquil spot but running around engaged in an exciting, high-speed racket and ball sport!
Squash will initially be a reactive sport as you get used to the game, the court, and the various shots and point strategies used. Still, as your skill levels improve, you will start incorporating the game and point strategies for yourself, moving from reactive to proactive.
This will improve your mental faculties like focus and concentration, and the benefits of this will spill over into your everyday life. Keeping your brain active is an important health aspect, especially as you get older.
The mental element of the game will become more important as your fitness improves so you can grow your skill levels with better strategic options and plans to outplay and out-maneuver your opponent during the game.
Squash Is Not An Expensive Sport
Unlike golf and cycling, where the costs to start and play can be high, getting going in squash is a cheap exercise. Since you only require shoes, a racket, and a ball to play, this won’t cost hundreds of dollars- or even a hundred dollars!
Of course, once you get into it and look to improve the quality of your shoes, buy some proper squash shirts and shorts, as well as an upgrade to racket and balls more suited to your skill level, you may be in for $200 or so, but certainly not in the $500 or more mark.
Not only is the equipment cheap, but playing a game at a squash club or venue is not expensive either, and this makes squash the healthiest sport and one of the most affordable too!
Squash Is An All-Year Round Sport
One of the best benefits of squash is that the weather never limits you. Because squash is played indoors, you can play this game all year round and keep your skill levels up and improving regardless of the weather!
Many venues will have indoor heating for winter and air-conditioning for summer, making for a comfortable environment no matter the season.
There are very few other sports available that offer the phenomenal overall benefits of squash, from the physical aspects of exercise, calorie burn, cardio health, full-body workout, and flexibility to the mental part of stress relief, concentration, and social engagement.
It’s not hard to see why squash is the healthiest sport, and aside from the health benefits, squash is fun and addictive and leaves you feeling great afterward, so if you have been looking for a sport that covers every possible base, squash is the answer!