What Are the Health Benefits of Playing Hockey?

hockey goalie
A boy play hockey on a frozen pond. (Image: vanhoffen/iStock/Getty Images)

Hockey, whether played on ice or on a field, is a sport that offers a total-body workout that includes both aerobic and anaerobic elements. The fast-paced nature of the sport provides aerobic exercise, while the reliance on all of the body’s major muscle groups also makes it an anaerobic activity. The result is a number of health benefits to the body, both physically and mentally. But with benefits come risks. Hockey is no exception, and safety should always be a priority when practicing the sport so that health benefits are not negated.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise occurs when your movements cause your breathing and heart rate to increase, resulting in calorie burn, fat loss and improved cardiorespiratory health. This type of exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight and keeps illness and disease at bay. Hockey is a form of cardiovascular exercise, and whether you’re skating or running, your body benefits from the activity. Because of the start-stop nature of the game, where skating or running is broken up by periods of rest, you may get enjoy even greater cardio benefits. Alternating vigorous activity with moments of recovery, known as high intensity interval training, can burn more calories and boost your metabolism.

Enhanced Muscular Strength

Hockey also provides a strength-training workout, with the core and leg muscles being developed in particular. The sport can lead to enhanced muscular strength, as well as improvement in athletic performance. Strength-training activities have also been shown to reduce the risk of injury, improve bone strength, strengthen connective tissues and increase muscle mass. All of these contribute positively to a healthier, stronger body that is less prone to injury and has improved overall function.

Improved Cooridination and Balance

Hockey requires players to develop speed, power and agility, and having quick reactions is a must during game play. In ice hockey, players must pass and receive pucks that are traveling quickly across the ice, and field hockey players must do the same with a ball. In either version, player must react quickly in order to accurately respond to or make a play. Developing these skills can lead to improved overall balance and agility, and hand-eye coordination is also positively affected.

Brain Boost

In addition to the physical gains associated with hockey, there is also something to be said for the mental health benefits that come with playing the game. Exercise itself can improve your mood because of the endorphins that are released, easing feelings of depression, stress and anxiety. As a form of exercise, hockey provides this benefit, but there’s an added brain boost that comes with the sport as well. Hockey demands good decision-making, and honing these skills on the ice or field can also be transferred to everyday life.

Risks and Precautions

Even though hockey comes with a number of health benefits, there are also some risks associated with the sport that should also be noted. Like any physical activity, playing hockey can result in injury. To reap the full health benefits of hockey, you should practice safety tips to avoid getting hurt. These include wearing the appropriate protective gear, warming up and cooling down before and after playing and practicing good sportsmanship.

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