Badminton, tennis's lesser-known cousin, is easy to learn, a fun social activity and provides numerous physical benefits. So if you're in need of a good workout, head to your backyard or your local gym for a recreational match against a friend or two. Badminton is a racket sport played on a rectangular court. Players score by hitting a shuttlecock, or birdie, with their racket over the net and in their opponents' half of the court. And although it may not seem like your "standard" gym workout, a semi-vigorous, hour-long game of badminton can help you burn as many calories as a half-hour session on the treadmill.
According to NurtiStrategy, a 155-pound individual will burn approximately 317 calories per hour while playing a moderately vigorous game of badminton. This means that under the CDC's physical activity guidelines, a badminton game qualifies as a moderate to vigorous activity, depending upon the level of play. Playing badminton frequently can help to increase your level of physical fitness: playing the game improves coordination, flexibility and balance because of the agility that's required to aim correctly and move to hit the birdie when it comes to your side of the court. The actions required to play badminton also help to exercise the gluteus maximus, abdominal and dorsal muscles, and to reinforce the joints. The game can help to improve endurance, as it is a form of aerobic exercise. You'll be moving quickly on the court, which will get your heart rate up and help you to burn calories.
Because badminton promotes physical fitness, it helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise increases endorphins, which are the brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, and has also been found to improve mood and sleep. Badminton is also likely to put you in a good mood because it's a social activity. You'll need at least one opponent, but you can also play with a teammate and two other opponents. The social interactions of a game, combined with feel-good endorphins, will result in positive feelings after a session on the court. If you play outside during the summer months, you will have the added bonus of vitamin D exposure from the sun as well.
Picking Up the Hobby
Badminton is an easy hobby to adopt. Many cities have special badminton clubs that anyone can join. If you already belong to a gym, check to see if there are badminton courts in the facility. As badminton grows in popularity, more and more gyms are adding courts to their lists of membership perks. If you don't belong to a gym, you also have the option of buying a badminton set, which usually includes rackets, a net and birdies. The set can be constructed anywhere -- in your backyard, or in a park.
Like any physical activity, badminton must be played with care. Because of the quick nature of the game, make sure you protect your ankles, which are easy to sprain when moving quickly. Individuals with tendinitis and contusions should not participate in the game, and everyone who plays should be aware that they may experience soreness in the shoulders and deltoid muscles after an intense game.
Jenni Whalen is a health journalist in Boston, where she recently graduated from Boston University with her Master of Science in journalism. Whalen has written extensively for "Boston" magazine and "Her Campus," and is currently at work planning BU's annual narrative journalism conference.