Not your average backyard game
Badminton is the second most popular participatory sport in the world. Learn how to play as a beginner and see how it can benefit your health.
In high school, a couple of my friends played on the rugby team. Another good buddy was a football star, and a third friend became a Canadian champion wrestler. I liked to joke that I was the only real man among them: I was on the badminton team.
Badminton may not give participants the same kind of status afforded to star football players, but it can offer a surprisingly brisk full-body workout and be just as difficult as football to master. The sport is the second most popular participatory sport in the world, after European football (soccer). However, despite its accessibility and easy-to-learn basics, badminton hasn’t garnered the same attention in North America as it has in Europe and parts of Asia.
All you need for a rousing game of badminton is a pair of rackets, a birdie, and a net strung five feet off the ground. Badminton can be played inside and outside; you’ll likely find some standard 20-foot wide by 44-foot long courts at your local recreation centre.
Loose and comfortable shorts and T-shirts are the most common badminton apparel, along with running shoes or cross-trainers with rubber soles that provide good traction.
Grasp the racket handle as though you were shaking hands with it, so that the face of the racket is perpendicular to the ground. As you swing, the racket should feel like an extension of your arm.
The most effective positioning is to stand in the middle of the court, knees slightly bent, feet pointing toward the net and spread shoulder-width apart. From this stable stance, badminton players can spring to any point on the court quickly and efficiently, striking the birdie with their forehand or backhand, and then bouncing back to the court’s centre in preparation for the next volley. Visit badminton-information.com for more information about technique.
For elite players, badminton is a complex sport that requires a unique combination of speed, agility, flexibility, endurance, and strength. Running around a badminton court can be a great full-body workout for anyone, and playing it regularly offers several long-term health benefits.
According to England’s national team coach, Ian Wright, badminton is the fastest paced of all racket sports, and playing competitively for 30 minutes is roughly equivalent to a brisk five-kilometre walk. Playing at top speed, you can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour. By increasing your heart rate, badminton decreases hypertension and helps to strengthen and condition your heart. It decreases unhealthy cholesterols that contribute to heart disease, while increasing levels of healthy lipoprotein cholesterols.
Playing badminton can also prevent osteoporosis, a condition whereby bones lose their density and become more brittle. “Badminton is a bone-loading sport,” says Jane Taylor, a personal trainer who writes for the Daily Express in the UK. “The impact of hitting the racket and jumping around helps to increase bone density in a way that normal walking will not.” In effect, badminton stimulates cells that form and strengthen bones, helping them to incorporate calcium into your bone matrix.
While badminton is a great physical workout, it can also exercise the mind, helping to fend off common psychosomatic ailments such as depression and anxiety. Badminton’s pace can be lightning fast, and among competitive players it favours those with fast reflexes who can think one or two steps ahead of the play.
For the fun of It
Like tennis, badminton can be played as a singles (two people) or doubles (four people) game, providing plenty of opportunities for socializing. People of all ages should become better acquainted with this sport–it’s easy to learn and can be played at any pace or comfort level.