The horseback riding sport of polo has been played for thousands of years and has vied with horse racing as ‘the sport of kings.’ It originated as training for cavalry riders, and many communities today have polo fields and teams that play on a regular basis. While it can be equated to a mix of horseback riding, croquet and soccer, polo has a tremendous amount of physical and mental health benefits.
Here are the Top 10 Health Benefits of Polo:
Mental benefits: Riding provides an active avenue for keeping your brain exercised, and it offers excellent therapeutic qualities, as well. Simply being out and about and enjoying the great outdoors will boost your general well being and act as a great stress buster.
Emotional benefits: Developing a relationship and sense of trust between yourself and your horse is highly rewarding. Learning to control and care for an animal much larger than yourself can have a profound affect on your confidence and is a great feeling. Many horse owners feel their horse is somewhat of a kindred spirit in tune with their own feelings and emotions; more so than any human companion.
General physical benefits: Horse riding and playing polo develops balance and improves coordination and motor function. Hand-eye coordination involved in hitting a ball with a mallet while on a moving horse is greatly improved. Playing polo is a great form of exercise which has both cardiovascular and muscle conditioning benefits.
Upper body strength: Riding a horse while swinging a handled mallet also contributes to upper body, shoulder, and arm strength. Upper body strength is important to have because the upper body controls your ability to perform everyday activities such as reaching, pulling, pushing and lifting. Having a strong upper body improves your flexibility, mobility and range of motion. If your upper body strength deteriorates as you age, you are more prone to injuries, disease and a diminished quality of life.
Postural muscle strength: As the rider reacts to the horse’s movements to avoid becoming off balance, the deep postural muscles of the trunk and pelvis and the abductor muscles of the thighs are continuously being conditioned. Playing polo will strengthen all of the muscles in the center of your body, providing more power to your other muscles and reducing the risk of injuries during everyday activities and strenuous exercises. And, on top of all of that, strong postural muscles also support the lungs and improve breathing.
Calories: Although it may seem as though the rider is not engaging in any physical exercise, an hour of activity can burn similar calories to that of a 30-minute jog or cycle ride. Increasing the speed and ride duration will increase the intensity of your work out and burn more calories
Training: Training is not just for you but also for your horse. Maintaining body strength to remain optimal in the game requires not only practice in the game, riding the horse and personal exercise but also exercise and training for your horse.
Horse care: Feeding, grooming, bathing, stabling or putting your horse out to pasture isn’t an easy job, but it’s part of the whole package when playing polo. As you groom, clean stables, carry saddles, equipment or bales of hay you are also doing weight-bearing exercise that helps maintain bone mass. In the end you’ll find yourself in the outdoors burning calories without realizing it.
Outdoors: Being outdoors is healthy on its own; fresh air, sunlight and exposure to nature all contribute to a boost in the immune system. The vitamin D from the sun contributes to strong bones and teeth and a healthy immune system. Lack of vitamin D can put you at risk for osteomalacia (soft bones) or osteoporosis (fragile bones).
Adrenaline rush: The rush of adrenaline in your blood from a full-speed horse ride signals your liver to break down glycogen and supply the body with fuel. This occurs when you are exercising and your muscles are running low on fuel, or when a sudden and unexpected demand of energy is required by the body in emergency situations.