Table Tennis for Health

Background

Table Tennis in The Illawarra has been played competitively since the 1950’s, and over those years many people have experienced the thrill and benefits of one of the world’s quickest reflex sports. At present, the club has 96 members, who play at the Beaton Park Leisure Centre in Gwynneville.

A large number of our players are over the age of 40. Our members come from all walks of life and backgrounds including Asia, Europe and South America.

We are currently one of the strongest clubs in regional New South Wales. Many of our players regularly play in State based competitions some of our members represented NSW at the National Veterans Championships with high success levels.

One of our players has a Commonwealth Games medal to her name, gained in the Parasport Womens Wheelchair singles at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

The Sport of Table Tennis

Table Tennis Australia has approximately 10, 000 registered members, and despite its status as an Olympic sport, it is still small on our national sporting landscape.

In Australia, table tennis receives just on $1.295 million dollars over 4 years to develop the sport, just above wrestling, and 1/30th of swimming ($38.898 million). Australia spent $310,251,171 to win 29 medals for the London Olympics. The average costs per medal is $10.7 million

From a health perspective we currently spend only $46 million for nearly 20,000 people in the Illawarra with health issues .

Health Benefits of Table Tennis

A fascinating brain imaging study from Japan found that just 10 minutes of table tennis increases activity in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum ie the problem solving, decision making, co-ordination and balance functions of the brain.

How can Table Tennis Improve Mental Health

Australian Health Expenditure Studies

Expenditure on Home and Community Care (HACC) from 2010 to 2050 is expected to go from $11b to $80B as a result of dementia. Maintaining physical, social and cognitively active lifestyles throughout middle age has been identified as a protective factor against dementia.

Table Tennis can help address this problem. The sport:

  • has  been proven to improve brain function by requiring both thought and physical alertness simultaneously.
  • is a powerful tool in fighting the onset of Alzheimers.
  • activates portions of the brain that no other sport does.
  • Is an unparalleled and profound social experience .
  • decreases, and has been recommended as a method for warding off, dementia and depression .
  • increases (patient) mobility, reduces wheelchair use and greatly improves unaided walking .
  • has mentally awakened people living in retirement homes .
  • is used by various centres to improve the life of elderly people and physically disabled children.
  • is a safe and pleasant ‘fun’ sport where relatively quick progress can be made.
  • is a sport for all ages: Australian Dorothy DeLow still played internationally at 101 years of age.
  • is used in the UK as a vehicle in community centres and care homes to encourages older people to play, both for the physical and mental benefits.
  • leads to uplifting improvements in social behavior.

With its ageing population, the Illawarra region needs to find ways of keeping the cost of health care to a minimum, by providing the means and opportunity for keeping the elderly healthy and happy. The proven social and health benefits of playing table tennis offer one cost-effective way towards achieving that aim, especially in relation to the treatment and prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.