Often at odds with one another, the mind and the body are often viewed as two distinct features, almost on opposite ends of the spectrum. The age-old high school debate pits brain against brawn, pen against the sword, and working smart against working hard. In reality, this is a huge misconception, and in fact, there is an undisputed harmony between the mind and the body that yearns for cooperation. With regard to basic biology, one cannot exist without the other, and as it is, the mind and the body share a direct relationship with one another. As one flourishes, so does the other, and as one suffers, so too, does the other.
Maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body are essential components to living an allied healthy lifestyle, which is why my Health Fitness Revolution team and I decided to pair two of the most popular, yet complementary activities into a single message.
Take a moment and imagine this – a person with both the brilliance of Garry Kasparov and the physical genius of Bastian Schweinsteiger. I am not saying that every human being should be both – what I am saying is that every human being has the potential to fulfill an ultimate purpose of their existence.
Top 10 health benefits of playing soccer:
- Increases Aerobic Capacity: Running at any intensity for 90 minutes requires a high level of stamina. Therefore, soccer players often have a tremendous amount of aerobic capacity- being able to go from walking to sprinting and have a fast recovery to do it again, and again, and again.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health: The average player runs 5 to 7 miles in a full game. The constant walking, jogging and running helps keep the players’ heart rates up, providing excellent cardiovascular exercise. This constant movement helps players strengthen their hearts, resist plaque build-up in the coronary arteries, reduce their blood pressure and burn excess calories.
- Lowers Body Fat and Improves Muscle Tone: Soccer is a great sport for burning fat because it works the muscles and your heart in different ways. Soccer builds more muscle mass and burns more fat by recruiting both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. As a general workout, soccer playing burns more calories than typical workouts because players are forced to switch between using the aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways.
- Builds Muscle Strength: lower body strength is required for kicking, jumping, tackling, twisting and turning and also forms the foundation for explosive speed. Upper body strength is required for shielding the ball, holding off opponents, throw-ins and also contributes to overall power and explosiveness. Regular soccer playing builds strength by using the whole body.
- Increases Bone Strength: In general, bone density decreases as people get older. The repeated weight-bearing loads on the body during a soccer match are an excellent way to increase the strength of our skeletal frame. Maintaining fitness through soccer throughout a lifetime is a great way to keep bones strong.
- Teaches Coordination: due to shifts between walking, running and sprinting, coordination is key to soccer. Body coordination is improved through the complex movements like dribbling, turning and passing, which are performed at varying rates of speed and direction. Hand-eye coordination is improved when players either kick the ball or receive a pass from someone. The better the coordination, the better advantage in a match.
- Promotes Teamwork and Sharing: While fitness goals are generally very personal, we can all benefit from sharing common goals with others who push us towards them. The lessons that players learn on the field translate to the rest of their lives and the camaraderie teammates share in unparalleled. The ability to work with others to reach a common goal is powerful when related to everyday life- in other words, join a team!
- Increases Cognitive Brain Function: Soccer helps increase skills in concentration, persistence and self-discipline because it is a fast-paced game that requires quick decisions on the field. Even when the tempo appears to slow down, players are constantly looking for territorial advantages, trying to position themselves to receive a pass or to defend an area the opponent may attack.
- Increase Confidence and Self-esteem, and Helps to Reduce Anxiety: Building physical strength and endurance helps build confidence in a player both on and off the field. Confidence and self-esteem not only impact sports performance, but also performance in school, career, family life and friendships. Also, as with all forms of exercise, the feel-good endorphins released into the body after a match are major stress and anxiety reducers. Several studies point to exercise as being a highly effective treatment for depression and anxiety.
- Anyone can Play, Anywhere: Soccer is not an expensive or prohibitive sport. All that is needed is space and a ball. It is a relatively simple sport to catch onto and is played mostly outdoors, which we already mentioned as being healthy here.
Here are the Top 10 Health Benefits of Chess:
- Promotes brain growth: Games like chess that challenge the brain actually stimulate the growth of dendrites, the bodies that send out signals from the brain’s neuron cells. With more dendrites, neural communication within the brain improves and becomes faster. Think of your brain like a computer processor. The tree-like branches of dendrites fire signals that communicate to other neurons, which makes that computer processor operate at a fast, optimal state. Interaction with people in challenging activities also fuels dendrite growth, and chess is a perfect example.
- It exercises both sides of the brain: A German study indicated that when chess players were asked to identify chess positions and geometric shapes, both the left and right hemispheres of the brain became highly active. Their reaction times to the simple shapes were the same, but the experts were using both sides of their brains to more quickly respond to the chess position questions.
- Raises your IQ: Do smart people play chess, or does chess make people smart? At least one scientific study has shown that playing the game can actually raise a person’s IQ. A study of 4,000 Venezuelan students produced significant rises in the IQ scores of both boys and girls after four months of chess instruction. So grab a chess board and improve your IQ!
- Helps prevent Alzheimer’s: As we age, it becomes increasingly important to give the brain a workout, just as you would every other major muscle group, in order to keep it healthy and fit. A recent study featured in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people over 75 who engage in brain-games like chess are less likely to develop dementia than their non-board-game-playing peers. The saying “use it or lose it” certainly applies here, as a sedentary brain can decrease brain power. All the more reason to play chess before you turn 75.
- Sparks your creativity: Playing chess helps unleash your originality, since it activates the right side of the brain, the side responsible for creativity. One four-year study had students from grades 7 to 9 play chess, use computers, or do other activities once a week for 32 weeks to see which activity fostered the most growth in creative thinking. The chess group scored higher in all measures of creativity, with originality being their biggest area of gain.
- Increases problem-solving skills: A chess match requires fast thinking and problem-solving on the fly because your opponent is constantly changing the parameters. A 1992 study conducted on 450 fifth-grade students in New Brunswick indicated that those who learned to play chess scored significantly higher on standardized tests compared to those who did not play chess.
- Teaches planning and foresight: One of the last parts of the brain to develop during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for judgment, planning and self-control. Because playing chess requires strategic and critical thinking, it helps promote prefrontal cortex development and helps teenagers make better decisions in all areas of life, perhaps keeping them from making an irresponsible, risky choice.
- Improves reading skills: In an oft-cited 1991 study, Dr. Stuart Margulies studied the reading performance of 53 elementary school students who participated in a chess program and evaluated them compared to non-chess-playing students in the district and around the country. He found definitive results that playing chess caused increased performance in reading. In a district where the average students tested below the national average, kids from the district who played the game tested above it.
- Optimizes memory improvement: Chess players know that playing chess improves your memory, mainly because of the complex rules you have to remember, as well as the memory recall needed when trying to avoid previous mistakes or remembering a certain opponent’s playing style. Good chess players have exceptional memory performance and recall. A study of Pennsylvania sixth-graders found that students who had never before played chess improved their memories and verbal skills after playing.
- Improves recovery from stroke or disability: Chess develops fine motor skills in individuals who have disability or have suffered a stroke or other physically debilitating accident. This form of rehabilitation requires the motion of chess pieces in different directions (forward, backward, diagonally forward motion, diagonally backward motion), which can help develop and fine tune a patient’s motor skills, while the mental effort required to play the game can improve cognitive and communication skills. Playing can also stimulate deep concentration and calm, helping to center and relax patients who are experiencing different degrees of anxiety.