More than 150 years after the game of baseball was invented, “America’s pastime” continues to be a popular sport for both spectators and participants. Whether you’re a preadolescent Little League player or a middle-aged armchair athlete, baseball can offer a variety of health benefits for players at all skill levels.
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The demands of professional baseball require Major League Baseball players to be highly fit athletes. According to the Sports Fitness Advisor website, a professional baseball player tends to be lean, with a body fat percentage of between 8 and 9, and able to run 60 yards in less than seven seconds. For the average non-athlete, however, baseball can be an enjoyable recreational activity that requires a low level of physical conditioning, as the game usually consists of long periods of standing and waiting punctuated by the occasional burst of activity. Still, baseball can provide health benefits.
Muscular and Cardiovascular Conditioning
One of the key skills involved in baseball is the ability to throw the ball a significant distance. Repeatedly throwing the ball will result in muscular development of the bicep, deltoid and other muscles in the throwing arm. This is especially true of pitchers. Running, either as a batter rounding bases or a fielder running to catch a ball, can contribute to building leg muscles. Running practice drills that simulate various situations that can occur in an actual game also serves to condition muscles and improve your cardiovascular fitness. However, exercising and conditioning your muscles in a gym won't necessarily make you a better baseball player. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dick Mills on his website Pitching.com cites a study indicating that low-velocity exercise such as weight training won't improve a high-velocity activity such as pitching.
Benefits for Youth
According to a book co-authored by Jordan D. Metzl, medical director of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, sports such as baseball can provide a host of physical benefits for children and teenagers. The book, "The Young Athlete: A Sports Doctor's Complete Guide for Parents," notes that benefits of sports include developing overall fitness in a fun manner, laying the groundwork for lifelong physical fitness, relieving stress and releasing muscle tension, and preventing drug and alcohol abuse by providing young baseball players with a healthy respect for their bodies and physical abilities.
Although excessive exposure to sunlight without the protection of sunscreen can increase the risk of skin cancer, sunlight offers benefits as well. As baseball typically is played outdoors and rarely during a period of rain, it leads to players being outside, exposed to sunlight for the duration of the game. According to a June 2004 article on the Medical News Today website, sunlight is the primary source for your body to take in vitamin D, which is crucial for your body to be able to absorb and metabolize calcium and phosphorus.