It might not be the first sport to pop into your head, but squash is amazingly healthy. So healthy, in fact, that it was named Forbes’ Healthiest Sport. The sport has been around since the early 1800’s, and people have played for fun and fitness for nearly 200 years across the globe. Although it’s gaining popularity in America, squash is most popular in England, France, Germany, Australia, India, and Hong Kong. It is estimated that over 20 million people in 175 different countries play squash around the world, and for good reason.
For those of you who might not know, squash is played on a relatively small indoor court played with racquets and balls. Like tennis, it is either played singles: one player versus another player, or in doubles: two players versus two players. One player serves, hitting the ball against a wall, and the other player most return it within the first two bounces. There are a number of different ways to keep score, and players can decide on the rules based on the social situation. Many fitness facilities have indoor squash courts available for reservations. You can learn more about the basics of the game here and watch a game here.
Squash provides an amazingly well-rounded, full-body workout. First of all, the sport offers a high-intensity aerobic workout. As they rally, players sprint around the court, back and forth, for anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. The sport demands that your heart is in decent shape to begin with, and over time, it can seriously improve cardiac health. The game keeps your heart working at about 80% of its maximum rate throughout the duration of a game. This is mainly because of the constant sprinting and little downtime between rallies.
With the heart pumping so hard, the body also burns serious calories. Depending on how hard you play, some estimate that you can burn 517 calories per 30 minutes. That means if you were to play for an hour, you could burn well over 1,000 calories. For this reason, many players use squash as a way to maintain a healthy weight.
The sport also demands anaerobic endurance. With your heart working so hard for the entire game, it has a difficult time meeting oxygen needs throughout the body. Regions that require the most energy, like the legs, have to tap into stored energy sources for fuel to keep going. These regions are forced to adapt and continue on without sufficient oxygen. Thus, squash requires and builds muscle endurance.
Side note, with this much energy being expended, it is essential to refuel with protein, water, and electrolytes after anaerobic activity. These help refuel and repair muscle fiber. It’s also important to stretch these muscles after a game to help the body clean out any leftover lactic acid.
Additionally, squash is great strength training. With quick sprints requiring speed and agility, the sport helps strengthen the muscles of the legs and core. Similarly, the swinging of the racket helps build and tone muscles in the arms, chest, shoulders, and back.
Finally, squash is an amazing workout because it’s fun. It’s a great way to get moving because it allows you to socialize while you sweat. You can get together with friends and catch up all while pushing your body to its limits. Plus, the game definitely has a competitive element, which will keep you engaged, focused, and working hard the whole way through.
In sum, if you’re looking for another way to cross train for whatever sport you love, be it surfing, snowboarding, cycling, or skiing, squash is a pretty damn good way to stay in shape.