Badminton is a great sport for people of all ages and fitness levels. Those who play regularly are more mentally alert, with better fitness and agility levels. It’s also a very social game and what we need right now are low-risk ways to socialise, because socialising is good for our mental health. Played at a high level it can burn up to 450 calories an hour but even a gentle to-and-fro with the grandkids in the local park will burn 150-200 calories.
Badminton, like tennis, requires total engagement. Players need to predict how an opponent will play a shot and then plan a counterattack, which improves mental agility. There is research to suggest that sports which involve a combination of both mental and physical activity offer a protective effect against dementia.
Badminton requires a lot of movement, in multiple directions. It requires short sprints, jumps, stretches, and lunges as players strive to reach the shuttlecock, which means that legs, arms, and core muscles are all being worked. This builds strength and flexibility.
Badminton is a great ‘build-up’ sport. You can start as slow as you like, tapping the shuttlecock over the net, trying to keep a rally going for as long as possible. As you improve and become quicker on your feet your shots will naturally increase in speed and strength, and you will almost certainly want to introduce an element of competitiveness. Played at higher levels the shuttlecock travels at impressive speeds. Badminton is actually the fastest racquet sport in the world. Professional players can smash the shuttle at speeds of over 200mph! This speed encourages players to improve co-ordination and core stability. Again, studies have shown that people with good core strength and co-ordination are less likely to suffer falls as they age.
The best way to get started is to find a friend of similar fitness level and get out and give it a go. Having a practice partner will make you both more likely to commit to playing regularly. It’s near impossible to play properly competitively outside as you are at the mercy of any breeze and a shuttlecock is 12 times lighter than a tennis ball. But if the aim is to improve agility and fitness while socialising and having fun, don’t let that stop you. By the time sports facilities open back up your confidence will have grown, and you may be ready for the next step of joining a badminton club or regular session. And the beauty of badminton is that it can be played indoors all winter, so rain never has to stop play. If you’re a more accomplished badminton player who is missing their fix you could try crossminton, which is designed for outdoor play, doesn’t need a court, and combines elements of badminton, tennis, and squash.