Getting some exercise by playing your favourite sport with a couple of mates is the perfect way to stay in shape. You get to spend some much needed time with friends and you don’t have to deal with all the over-hyped gym bunnies at your local (overcrowded) fitness centre. There are no downsides!
Except, of course, that if you feel like your brain’s turning to mush from too much time at work (or travelling to and from the office) these sporty evenings are taking up the time you’d usually spend giving your brain a good run around with a book or an interesting documentary.
Well you needn’t worry, there are some sports that get your mind going as much as your body. Here are five of the best.
This team sport requires quick reflexes, great hand eye coordination and an ability to see the entire court to plan your shots. It also engages the part of your brain that you use for depth perception. You need to know how far away the basket is after all…
This probably won’t help you work up a sweat, unless you want to jog around the table between shots, but pool is categorised as a sport by the government and so technically counts for the purpose of this list!
The angles-based workout this will give your mind is one of the best going in sport. Shot planning and the ability to see where the cue ball will be a few shots down the line is paramount to success and sometimes, a real brain drain.
3. Table tennis
Almost like a form of aerobic chess, ping pong requires you to engage a huge proportion of your brain to get that ball back in play.
You have to focus your prefrontal cortex (tracking the ball through space), parietal and occipital lobes (watch out for the spins) and your cerebellum (planning strategy for the next few shots). So what are you waiting for?
Memorising new routines while performing a highly aerobic activity is obviously going to get the old brain box going like a charm.
Faster paced styles like jazz or hip hop are the most taxing, but just bumbling around to the new Taylor Swift on the club dance floor isn’t going to get the job done. Sorry Tay Tay.
5. Martial arts
Who’d have thought engaging in an activity where the head is often knocked around by some pretty vicious blows would be good for the brain?
Well, that’s what researchers in Brazil have found. It turns out martial artists have significantly higher grey matter tissue density than those who abstain from the sport. What could possibly go wrong?