It started with the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, when the character of Legolas fought off the enemy with a bow and arrow, then The Hunger Games star Katniss Everdeen sparked a renewed public interest in the sport. Without a doubt, the popularity of archery saw tremendous growth thanks to the success of these movie blockbusters. Families were suddenly taking archery lessons, as parents encouraged their children to try a new sport and be just like their favorite cinematic hero.
And while some may see archery as a fun hobby, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Records trace the first bow and arrow back as far as 50,000 BC. It was traditionally used for hunting, but is now a popular sporting contest, and it’s even a competitive Olympic sport. Though often perceived as a stationary sport, competitive archers actually require a significant amount of strength, endurance and focus to perform well, making it an ideal sport to help keep you healthy and fit.
Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:
- Improved hand-eye coordination and balance: Archery trains the hands to work together while performing different tasks, aiming and firing the arrow based on input from your eyes. Coordination improves with repetition and practice. Balance is also paramount to success in archery, as the body must be held still while aiming and making a shot. Over time, the core becomes better at gaining control of the body’s balance and helps with more accurate shooting.
- Hand and finger flexibility: Finger and hand strength increase in archery. They also become more flexible because they are fully in use while aiming at the target.
- Strength building: The arms, core, hands, chest and shoulders are all used when practicing a proper draw. Similar to lifting weights, the tension on these muscle groups is typically maintained for several seconds before the archer releases the string to fire an arrow. With repetition, the act of drawing and firing a bow leads to muscle development in most of the major muscle groups of the upper body.
- Increased patience: Most people can use a lesson in patience, and archery helps with that. This is a sport that requires patience because it is not about speed but about precision – and precision can take time.
- Increased focus: Archers need to tune out all distractions, focus on their form, and release the bowstring consistently. The concentration practiced during archery can help with coping in high-pressure situations, and in day-to-day life as well.
- Improves confidence: In archery, competition can be against others or against oneself. Because of this, results are measurable and improvement in one’s form and technique results in a boost in self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Is a social sport: People of any age and from many walks of life enjoy archery. Almost every age group can participate, competitors from the age of 6 all the way into their 80s are shooting. It also teaches the benefits of teamwork in some cases with some competitions involving groups of people.
- Is a form of exercise: At competition level, archers walk the equivalent of five miles (8km), carrying heavy loads during a day’s event. In addition, Prevention magazine says drawing a bow burns about 140 calories per half-hour, the same as walking at a brisk, 3.5-mph pace. We wrote about the health benefits of walking here.
- Relaxation: Releasing an arrow, watching it fly, and having it hit a target can relieve stress. The act of focusing while building strength and confidence is overall a satisfying and relaxing experience.
- Open to all: Archery can be done by both able bodied and disabled people. People with the most severe disabilities and even the blind, use special tactile equipment and are able to join in – making this a great family sport!
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