How Can Table Tennis Improve Mental Health?

Did you know that table tennis is the world’s number one brain sport? Yes, it actually tickles our brains more than chess, puzzles, crosswords, and other brain-intensive games. 

In this article, I gathered a bunch of interesting studies that investigate how table tennis improves mental health. But don’t worry, I made sure to exclude most of the medical mumbo jumbo! Let’s get going. 

how can table tennis improve mental health

1. It Sharpens Strategic Thinking

When your opponent plays a challenging stroke, your brain’s frontal lobe (aka prefrontal cortex) performs thousands of calculations to anticipate the ball’s direction, speed, and spin. Afterward, it has to plan the perfect return to put the opponent in the worst scenario possible. 

With time, the increased activity will sharpen your strategic thinking, allowing you to make better choices in your professional and personal lives. 

Table Tennis Is the Best Sport for This Goal 

Some people may argue that the improved cognitive ability isn’t a unique benefit for table tennis; any other sport that requires prompt decision-making will offer the same mental sharpness. 

To investigate this claim, a group of researchers analyzed the brain function of over 160 adult women who practiced gymnastics, dancing, resistance training, and table tennis.

Those who played table tennis scored the highest brain function levels, followed by dancers, gymnasts, and weightlifters. Much to my surprise, table tennis didn’t only improve cognition but also decreased depression rate, allowing its players to lead a happier, more productive life. 

2. It Strengthens Your Memory

Have you ever wondered how your brain stores memories? Well, it’s actually a quite complicated process, but most of it happens in a small structure embedded deep inside your brain — it’s the hippocampus

Studies believe that table tennis can increase your hippocampus’s size by supplying it with more blood and nutrients. This way, you’ll be able to remember more stuff for a longer time, fingers crossed! 

3. It Can Combat Alzheimer’s and Dementia

As we grow older, our brain cells gradually shrink in size and number, affecting our ability to remember essential details in our lives. For some people, that brain atrophy progresses too fast, resulting in severe forms of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Luckily, those complications are avoidable! All you have to do is keep using your brain as you grow older — it’s just a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing. 

Recent MRI scans found that playing table tennis can activate up to 5 brain regions simultaneously, making it one of the best sports for seniors. 

Delightfully, these findings have already come into play. The Bounce Alzheimer’s Therapy (BAT), the organization that pioneered the research, has been visiting care homes to encourage seniors to learn and practice table tennis. 

4. It Perfects Your Hand-Eye Coordination

If you play table tennis against an avid player, you might have to defend balls firing at 25 mph (miles per hour). 

And because the table is about 9-foot-long, the ball will cross the table in less than 0.25 seconds! As you compete with more skillful players, you might have to react in less than 0.1 seconds. 

Forcing your brain to deal with such scenarios will improve your reaction time and hand-eye coordination, both of which can be extremely beneficial in real life. You’ll be able to catch the fragile figurines that your cat pushes off the shelf, you’ll find it easier to defend against sudden attacks, and you’ll crush your opponents in FPS games! 

5. It Enhances Fine Motor Functions

The table tennis ball weighs no more than 2.7 grams. With such a light weight, you need to be accurate about every small aspect — the angle, speed, timing, spin, force, etc. If only one of these factors goes wrong, you’ll be more likely to lose the point. 

How does this help your brain? Well, the part that controls all of these fine movements is called the cerebellum

Table tennis trains that part to lead your muscles in the finest, most accurate way possible. While this may not be that important for adults, it’s incredibly crucial for young kids and teenagers since it increases their chances of mastering intricate careers like surgery.  

6. It Lifts Your Mood 

At first glance, table tennis may seem like a sport for lazy people. You run around in football; you jump and dash everywhere in volleyball — but in table tennis, you’re just standing there! 

Well, let’s say you can’t judge a book by its cover. To win a table tennis game, you have to run, jump, and do lots of meticulous footwork. 

That extreme physical activity encourages the release of endorphins, the hormones that make you feel ecstatic. There’s no better way to let off some steam after a challenging day at work. 

To Sum Up

If you’re looking for an all-rounder sport to make the most out of your limited free time, I don’t think you can find anything better than table tennis. It lifts your mood, strengthens your memory, sharpens your strategic thinking, and promotes hand-eye coordination, plus a whole lot more benefits!

And let’s not forget, you’ll have a whale of a time!