12 Incredible Health Benefits of Basketball

For years, fans from around the world have enjoyed the incredible health benefits of basketball. And it’s no secret that the impressive fan base of 50 million strong are some of the healthier sports fanatics in North America. Unlike others, basketball fans usually love getting out there and getting their hands dirty playing the actual game; as much if not more than they love watching the game on TV.

Basketball can improve your health in just about every aspect of your life. It has so many unique moving parts to it and because of the different positions or the option to shoot hoops by yourself, virtually any person can enjoy improved health by playing.

The game can make a person of any size quicker, faster, and stronger, but the sport also goes beyond physical health benefits. I have played the sport for just about my entire life, and can personally say that I have felt and seen the benefits it brings. So let’s go over 12 of its very real health benefits one by one. Maybe I’ll even throw in a bonus one at the end!

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Biggest Health Benefit of Basketball? It's a Stress Reliever

Basketball stress reliever

Basketball is a great way to remove some of the stress from your life. The game can be played any time with one person, two people or an entire team. I have often hit the court with the sole purpose in mind of letting off some steam. There is no better feeling than hitting those three pointers with some serious swish-power.  

If there has been something on your mind that’s been nagging at you for a long time, it’s a great idea to just grab a ball and go shoot it out by yourself. Throw on some music and just work it out on the court hard until you find yourself in the zone. You begin to forget everything and escape the real world for a bit. This is a much healthier way to deal with the stresses of life when compared to other more destructive things you could be doing. Put your heart into your workout and focus on your game.

Basketball Burns a LOT of Calories

Basketball includes so many movements that it would be hard not to expect to burn off some serious calories. From quick spurts, to long ups and downs; not to mention the jumping, crouching, cutting side to side, this sport has you doing just about everything to burn off those unwanted calories.

According to ShareCare.com shooting hoops without playing a game helps burn around 300 calories an hour. That’s not too bad for just throwing a ball around. Playing a half court game brings it to about 558 an hour but I would assume that all depends on how hard you play. A full court game can burn around 747 calories or more with the same assumption; that it all depends on how much effort your putting in.[1]

You can’t begin to compare the amount of calories you burn playing a hardy game of basketball to the stereotypical straight cardio; say on a treadmill or stationary bike. With the wide range of movements needed for the game, it quickly becomes a full body workout that leaves you tired but feeling great! It’s a fun way to shed fat and get fit.

Basketball Builds Strong Muscles

man flexing muscle

Due in part to the large variety of movements required to play the game, basketball players end up working a wide range of muscle groups all at once. Playing defense in a good defensive position for example, will build muscles in your calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes. The continuous running and jumping works those muscles to their max.

You also have to be able to withstand getting the pushback from someone your guarding using your leg muscles, abs and arms to prevent them from making headway up the court. This gives both the upper and lower body a great workout.

When playing offense your muscles take a beating. Between trying to get a quick shot off, jumping, passing and dribbling; your arms are forced to really stretch and move quickly. If you’ve ever been in a practice where you concentrated solely on three pointers you’ll know exactly what I mean.

All the little movements in basketball can go unnoticed. Take a rebound for example:

  • The shot goes up.
  • It’s flying towards the net.
  • You’re about to leap up to grab the rebound.
  • Your leg muscles tense up.
  • Your legs bend.
  • You jump up, stretching those same leg muscles.
  • Your arms stretch out above your head to reach for the ball.
  • You grab the ball squeezing it tight using your arm and hand muscles.
  • Your core tightens to brace yourself for impact as you return to the ground.
  • Your legs cushion and protect you as you hit the floor.
  • Your arms come back down to normal height bracing the ball still tightly held.

All this, requires so many different groups of muscle to make it happen successfully and when repeated over and over again it can quickly begin to build and tone some of those less used muscles.

The ballistic, static and PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching activities that go along with the game have an amazing ability to stretch and strengthen the muscles [2]

The fact that playing one game of basketball can work so many different muscle groups in your body all at once makes it so worthwhile as a goto sport for building yourself into a lean, mean,  ballin-machine.

Balance and Coordination are Amazing Health Benefits

Basketball improves balance

If you’re a clumsy person at all and want to  , basketball is a great place to start.

The more you play, the faster your game gets and your balance and coordination subtly get better without you noticing. The small changes make a big difference over a long period of time. From catching passes in the air, off the bounce, on the run, off the backboard and at all sorts of angles your body will improve its ability to maintain equilibrium under every sort of situation.

To do a proper layup smoothly and with speed is not something that comes naturally to most people. It can be downright painful to watch someone new at the sport try to put the ball in while running and dribbling at the same time. Take that same player after practicing that move for two to three weeks and the timing and coordination improves drastically.

They are able to compose the run, the jump and the release much easier and with much greater balance. Another week and they may even have the two-steps without traveling, down pat. It really is awesome how quickly the balance and coordination can kick in, especially if you are naturally sporty in nature. But it does wonders even if your not a proven athlete.

Basketball WILL Improve your Reflexes

Like balance and coordination your reflexes can quickly improve as well.

While playing defense against other people you’re forced to react to their movements, and if you don’t, well at best they score on you and at worst you may just end up tripping over yourself and landing on the floor of the court.

The more you play the faster your reflexes will begin to react. You’ll slowly be able to jump ahead of the quicker guys or make an offensive move that can get you by a defender. Perhaps your able to catch a ball coming at you at the last second where a few months ago that would have hit you in the face.

Reflexes have a bit of a snowball effect when it comes to improving your game. Once you become faster at reacting and better at making split second decisions, you also become much more difficult to guard and an all-around better player.

Endurance Helps Build a Healthy You

Like any sport that includes cardio training (and I know of very few that don’t); basketball will improve your overall endurance level. If you’re looking for a way to build a strong heart and improve the health of your lungs this will do it for sure!

Running up and down the court, cutting from left to right to avoid the defense, jumping backwards and forwards; all of these build up your stamina. But basketball doesn’t only build up running endurance, it can also build muscle endurance. Throwing the ball and pushing against other players builds up your muscles natural ability to resist more and take more pounding. It’s constantly working you so that your able to handle more pressure.

Building up endurance isn’t always seen on the outside, like losing weight or gaining muscle, but it will make you feel much more confident and you will start to notice throughout a normal day how much easier everything becomes and how much extra energy you have.

Basketball Builds Mental Toughness

Basketball builds mental toughness

Personally I think this one of the more important health benefits of basketball and also one of the more frequently overlooked. Playing basketball can be one of the better ways to increase your ability to cope mentally with some of life’s everyday challenges. From fighting through the fatigue, to facing up against opponents double your size, you will mentally feel stronger and more resilient

You’ll start to realize that you’re capable of doing much more than you ever thought and you’ll find yourself pushing harder through difficulties and challenges that may otherwise have brought you down. You will also start to see that you can handle adversity and confrontation in a healthier way.

In basketball you don’t always get the calls you want, but you have to keep playing while maintaining an optimistic outlook on the game. Dealing with trials in basketball helps prepare you for the real world to a certain extent. The many different situations playing the sport will bring can be a microcosm of the real world. For example you’ll have to deal with a diverse group of people, get put into scenarios that you don’t feel 100% comfortable with and learn what it means to have a close relationship with fellow teammates.

Basketball Builds Bone Strength and Structure

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development weight-bearing, physical activity like basketball and other popular sports cause muscles to push and tug against the bone. This stressing over and over again allows new bone tissue to form which in turn increases their strength. [3]

Building bone strength can be very important as we grow and develop. It helps prevent future injuries from occurring and can speed up the healing process when we do injure ourselves.  .

Spraining or breaking your ankle can cause a lot of pain and prevent you from doing the activities you love. So go out of your way to make basketball part of your fitness regime. Its health benefits will make for a stronger, more fit you .

Basketball Can Increase Spatial Awareness

Basketball can increase your spatial awareness and recognition skills. If you find yourself playing on a smaller court or a half court it can force you to be more aware of your surroundings and how close you are to your teammates. It also causes you to be more aware of the location of the opposing teams players especially if you’re on defense. You have to think like a team to play like a team and knowing where your team is at all times plays an important part in that.

Playing Basketball Can Increase Your Confidence

Basketball is a great way to build confidence for many reasons. One of the big ones is how it affects your body image. The physical activity basketball can put you through when you really push yourself can certainly help increase your muscle mass which for many will increase their self esteem as well. As they say, “There’s nothing as good as healthy feels”.

Basketball can help you gain self-confidence through all the small victories that you take away with you. Something as simple as making a great play or a difficult shot can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. It sends out a really large dopamine hit to the system that is hard to replicate anywhere else.

If you play at any sort of competitive level you get that same rush from hearing the crowd cheer your team on. But you can also feel that confidence boost while playing by yourself and knowing that your working hard at something that can really improve your life.

As your balance and muscles build your confidence will as well so stick with the game.

Your Teamwork Skills Will Improve

Like many of the benefits in this article this one is more forced upon you without you even noticing it. The more you play basketball at a competitive level or even pickup games with more than a couple players, the more you’ll find yourself creating skills, tricks and plays that involve multiple team members. You’ll also notice how much more effective your team becomes when you work in sync towards the final goal.

The values and team-built skills you will pick up are the type of skills that can benefit you throughout the rest of your life. They can help in other types of sports, in business and in your family life.  

Playing Any Sport Can Help Build Routine

Although it doesn’t seem like it, basketball helps build a great routine in your life. If you set aside time each day or even every few days top work on your skills you may find that your life becomes a bit more regimented. It begins to feel more focused and when you succeed in one area (like sticking to a workout or practice schedule) it becomes easier to take that and apply it to other parts of your life.

You may also find it easier to set aside regular time for homework or sticking to a schedule at work, or even blocking out time for your family.

Setting up a routine can be a very basic thing to do but it can take your game to a whole new level. Especially with basketball where all you need is a ball and hoop to really get to work. Don’t let a busy schedule prevent you from making headway with your game. If you don’t have a lot of time, put in the time you do have. 15 mins here or 45 mins there is great when all you need to do is throw on some shorts, shirt and shoes and then hit the court.

One of the best routines and health benefits that can come out of playing basketball is a regulation of your sleeping patterns, one of the more important routines in your life. The physical activity can help make you tired, let you burn off some steam and relax a bit throughout the day so that by nightfall you are ready to hit the pillow hard. Hopefully you’ll awake the next day refreshed and ready to play again.

Freebie, yep it's a baker's dozen here folks - There is a Huge Social Aspect to Basketball

I’ve met some really great people on the court and pickup games are the best. It’s great walking on by yourself and finding gals and guys to play a pickup game with. It’s kind of an unspoken code that when it comes to pickup, it doesn’t matter what skill level your at. Whether the other players have played for years or a few hours, there is always something you can learn by playing with someone else.

It’s a great way to bring people together as long as no one takes things too seriously. Have a positive attitude when you play with others and remember that it’s just a game and you’ll always have a good time.

Final Thoughts

Overall the health benefits of basketball are nothing to scoff at. They can be a fantastic part of a healthy lifestyle and keep you in shape for years to come. It can better your life in so many different aspects and is so easy to pick up and play anytime.

On top of all that it’s just plain fun! Nothing can beat an intense game or a random round of pickup on a bright sunny morning.  So if you’re looking for a fun activity with some amazing benefits, grab some buddies, a basketball and hit the court!

Sources

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