As the American Pastime, baseball has played an irreplaceable role in the country’s history. At times, it defined the nation and helped lead us through social change. During times of war and tragedy, it acted as a great distraction from the horrors afflicting the world.
While our focus on baseball may not be the same as it once was, the imagery of father and son tossing a ball is still synonymous with what it means to be an American.
Aside from being an integral part of American culture and its history, baseball is the best sport when it comes to improving focus, hand-eye-coordination and mental sharpness.
In addition, throwing, hitting and even catching a ball have a number of positive health impacts on the body and are a great workout for your arms, thighs and lower legs. You and your child can enjoy honoring America’s treasured pastime, while burning calories and getting in shape.
Stronger Arms and Legs
As you throw a ball back and forth, nearly every major muscle in your legs and arms are triggered. Although it may seem like you are only using your arms to throw the ball, the motion exercises your legs just as much because each time you throw, you are stepping forward to generate power. This motion uses your thighs and lower legs.
When the ball is about to be released, the arms take over and help direct and control the trajectory of the throw. This motion activates muscle groups in your arms and shoulders. Throwing a baseball delivers an especially tremendous workout to the cluster of muscles in your rotator cuff.
On the receiving end of a throw, you often have to bend your legs to catch the ball, which means you are getting a workout even from just catching the ball. This is especially true for players in the catcher position, who spend a lot of time squatting and standing up behind the plate.
During batting, the twisting motion your body goes through while swinging a bat triggers muscles all over the body, including the arms, shoulders, back, chest and legs. First, the legs exert themselves to power the initial movement. As you step forward, the legs help propel the body into the swing to hit the ball with the greatest amount of power.
This twisting motion then activates other parts of your body, including muscles in the chest, back and even groin. The last step of the swing is to bring the bat from the shoulder, across the plate and attempt to hit the ball, which activates all parts of your arms and shoulders. Similar to throwing a ball, swinging the bat is also a great workout for the rotator cuff muscles.
Mental Health Benefits
Baseball, perhaps more than other sports, requires a tremendous level of mental quickness. Henry Kissinger once remarked,
Baseball is the most intellectual game because most of the action goes on in your head.
The pitcher, with the help of his or her catcher, and the batter are constantly engaged in a mental battle.
That is why many people refer to pitching as equal parts athleticism and the art of deceiving the batter. Research has shown us that the more we use our brain, the stronger it gets. Thus, engaging in this subtle, but important, mental side to the game of baseball has tremendous mental benefits.
Similarly, hitting in baseball takes an incredible amount of focus and a keen attention to details. While a lot of hitters’ success is chalked up to great hand-eye coordination, the pros know it takes much more than that.
Becoming a successful hitter requires carefully studying the pitcher, even when you are not at bat, to detect the subtle differences in his or her pitches and create an effective strategy for your next appearance at the plate. This heightened sense of awareness will help improve you or your child’s ability to focus in other aspects of life.
In addition to helping gain a mental focus, baseball also sharpens your hand-eye coordination. At the Major League level, a pitch takes about half a second to reach home plate. That means, as a hitter, you have less than a second to see the ball, decide whether or not it is a pitch to hit and, if it is, getting the barrel of the bat around to make contact.
Even at an amateur or youth level, this is not an easy task. Every time you are swinging at a pitch or catching a ball, you are enhancing your hand-eye coordination. This has several benefits outside of sports because hand-eye coordination is crucial in many fine motor skills, including reading and writing. Thus, playing baseball can have a beneficial impact on your child’s performance in school.
Although baseball requires less running than many other team sports, there is plenty of calorie-burning cardio taking place. Even during a simple game of catch, you can burn hundred of calories in an hour.
Any type of physical activity kicks your metabolism into high gear and speeds up the rate at which your body burns calories and reduces fat. Moreover, baseball is cardiovascular exercise, which helps increase your lung capacity and strengthen the heart.
Every action, whether you are running the bases, chasing down a ball or even walking back to the dugout between innings is contributing to your weekly cardio and helping you burn calories.
The beauty of baseball’s slower pace is that the physical exertions usually come in short bursts that are followed by periods of low-activity. This allows your body the necessary time to recover and rest, which prevents it from becoming overworked and injury-prone.
Ernie Harwell, the beloved and legendary play-by-play sportscaster of Major League Baseball, once defined the game in the most poetic of terms. Arguably no truer words have been spoken about the game. He remarks,
Baseball is the president tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm.
This idyllic imagery is the reason the game of baseball is our American pastime. But aside from stirring up memories from childhood games of catch in the yard, it is important to remember the health and fitness benefits of playing the game.
Whether you are considering picking up baseball again, or signing your son or daughter up for Little League, it is important to know the benefits. As with any sport, physical activity promotes your cardiovascular health and burns calories.
Baseball delivers a tremendous workout to the muscles in your arms, legs and shoulders. To a lesser extent, it is also a good workout for your back, chest and groin.
Where baseball stands out amongst other popular team sports is in its ability to promote mental health. Even just playing a game of catch helps improve focus and hand-eye coordination, which can translate to better performance in school and fine motor skills like reading and writing.