When Sydney sporting journalist Wally Mason visited his Boorowa family recently, he encountered a sporting activity of a kind he doesn't usually cover.
"They were working up a sweat, well a gentle sweat, but hearts were definitely pumping at St John's Church Hall on a Tuesday morning," he said.
"That's what an hour or two of table tennis will do for you - get the heart beating strong, improve cardiovascular health, cognitive performance and balance while strengthening your core muscles."
Wally indicated that it might not be up to Olympic standard, where the ball moves so fast it's a blur and the athletes are super fit, but at St John's table tennis for seniors, they're competing for something more important than medals - it's helping to keep them healthy.
He said there were three tables in use when he dropped in recently, with tight contests being fought out in all of them.
It was serious stuff, with bragging rights up for grabs.
Wally drew on statistics to indicate that only a third of Australians over 55 are meeting national guidelines for the amount of physical activity to stay in good shape and Table Tennis NSW reckons it has the answer, citing a series of studies that show recreational table tennis increases concentration and alertness, stimulates brain function, helps with tactical thinking skills and coordination and provides valuable aerobic activity.
Over 50s magazine recently listed table tennis as one of the best sporting activities for older Australians.
There is even evidence that playing table tennis regularly will help to reduce the risk of diseases such as dementia, by giving your cognitive skills a workout.
"But health benefits aside," Wally said, "One of the most important aspects of St John's table tennis was evident towards the end of my recent visit. The dozen or so participants sat around a long table for a cup of tea or coffee and a yarn after their games".
"A regular game of table tennis, and the socialisation that comes with it, can be a real mental health tonic."
A final word comes from local participant Ron Hoile, a significant performer with the table tennis bat.
"A revival of past sporting endeavours is apparent as people sharpen their existing skills that have lain dormant for many years," he said.
"All players, both men and women, hover around the 80 mark, indeed some well surpass it.
"Cardiac pumping, wit sharpening and decision making sensations are experienced as heartbeats rise commensurate with exertion and joy.
"Well can it be said that we walk away in fine form from our sporting foray. Amen!"
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