We all know that it's important for people to be active, especially as we get older, in order to stay in shape and fight off any potential medical conditions. One way of doing this is by taking up a new sport. Racket sports such as squash are providing the most benefits.
We briefly talked about the game of squash in our "top 5 sport and fitness activities" blog post, however, today's post will go into more detail, explaining the rules and benefits of the game.
What is Squash?
Squash is a fast-moving racket sport. It can be played with two people in a singles match and four people in a doubles contest. The game is played within a four-walled court, with a small, hollow rubber ball. Both players are also equipped with squash rackets.
What are the Benefits?
According to the governing body website;
You're on fire. You're chasing every ball, thriving on adrenaline as the rally goes on, enjoying banter with your mate and getting fit without thinking about it. This is sport as you’ve never experienced before."
The game of Squash is a great upper and lower body workout, strengthening muscles and burning up to 800 calories per hour - perfect for older people who are looking to stay healthy. Remember, the NHS advises that older people looking for a more intense workout routine should aim for 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, and strength exercises on two or more days a week that work the major muscles in their body.
You're constantly moving your body during a game of squash, chasing a ball that can reach speeds of up to 170mph in some games. So, playing a game of squash can improve the following aspects of your health:
- Cardiovascular - You'll be running, leaping, and diving for that ball.
- Core strength.
- Flexibility and back strength.
Of course, you'll also be improving your hand-eye coordination and agility on the court. Your brain will constantly be working as you try to work out how and where to hit the ball, in order to gain an advantage over your opponent. Concentration is key during a game of squash. You've always got the be thinking ahead and looking to out-smart your rival - you cannot take your eye off the ball for a second.
Playing a game of squash can also help to reduce any stress that may have built up during the day or week. Much like going to the gym, taking your anger out on the squash ball is a great way of releasing any stress.
Away from the physical side of things, playing squash is also a great social activity. You need at least two people to play, which means you're either going to be taking a friend with you or making new ones at your local sports club.
Having an active social life is important as you age, as you look to make sure that you don't become lonely. You're bound to make friends at a squash club, as you already have one thing in common with everybody there.
Each player in a game of squash will need their own racket. Generally, these rackets have a long handle and a small head. Just like tennis rackets, there are several different brands, sizes and weights available on the market.
Alongside your racket, we would also advise wearing eye protection. Eye protection is mandatory in all official competition matches. Look for the British Standard BS7930.1 Squash on any eyewear you purchase to ensure the right quality.
In terms of clothing, we suggest going for comfortable sportswear. You're going to be moving around a lot, so make sure your trainers are comfortable. Perhaps use running shoes or trainers which have soft innersoles. A lightweight sporting t-shirt and shorts, along with sweatbands would be a good idea.
Finally, we have the squash balls themselves. There are four different types and it's important that you pick the right one, depending on the type of game you're looking to have and your experience as a player. The four types include:
- Pro Balls - Used by elite/professional players. These balls feature distinctive double yellow dot markings.
- Competition Balls - Perfect for regular/club level players. These balls feature a single yellow dot.
- Progress Balls - Perfect for improving or recreational players. These balls are slightly larger, bounce more, and are black in colour.
- Max Balls - Perfect for beginners. These balls are even bigger, bouncier, and are black with a blue dot.
The basic premise of the game is quite simple; you need to hit the ball against the front wall until your opponent is unable to return it. Of course, there are rules within this premise that you need to follow in order to win.
The front wall features an outline and a service line. When you serve, the ball needs to hit the front wall between these two lines. The server must also remain in one of the two service boxes whilst serving. The server can choose which one to start play in.
On the balls return from the front wall, unless volleyed, its first bounce needs to land within the back quarter of the court opposite to the server’s box.
Matches are the best of three or five games, depending on your preference or time availability. Each game is a point a rally scoring to 11 - who can score 11 points first. However if the game is tied at 10-10 a player will need to win by two clear points. Points can be scored by either player if:
- A player fails to serve or return the ball during a rally.
- The ball in play touches the other player or anything carried or worn by the other player whilst on the way to the front wall.
- A player drops the racket, calls out, or in any other way distracts the opponent, and the referee considers that such occurrence has caused the opponent to lose the stroke.
- The ball hits the ceiling or any object outside of the court.
The ball is only allowed to hit the floor once on each shot, but it can hit as many walls as you want. You will need to make sure that you hit the wall above the board and below the outline. During a game, you must make effort to make sure that your rival has a fair view of the ball. You must also make every effort not to interfere with, or crowd, your rival as he or she attempts to get to, or play, the ball.
Please see the video below, provided by England Squash, for a general overview of the game.
Remember to have a medical with your doctor before starting a new sport and fitness hobby, and to take it slow and easy when you begin. It’s better to gradually improve your ability and fitness, rather than going in too hard and injuring yourself.
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