Does the game of table tennis (Ping-Pong) delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease?
Table tennis, also known as Ping-Pong, is an indoor recreational sport which involves two to four players bouncing a lightweight ball back and forth across a table using small paddles on a hard table divided by a net.
Magnetic resonance imaging scans conducted by researchers from the Bounce Alzheimer’s Therapy Foundation have demonstrated that table tennis may improve long-term memory for those who have the disease and helps decrease cognitive decline. According to the results, regularly playing table tennis can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by as much as five years.
In a research study published in the June 17, 2020, online issue of Neurology, participants in the study who adhered to four or all of the specified brain healthy behaviors — physical activity, stop smoking, light/moderate alcohol consumption, high-quality diet and mentally stimulating activities — were found to have a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping the brain active is important in combating the disease, and a game of table tennis stimulates mental alertness and concentration and develops mental acuity.
Studies have found that table tennis, the No. 1 brain game, helps improve function of the frontal lobes of the brain, which regulate decision making, problem-solving and voluntary movements and increases attention and focus. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, an individual can experience functional improvements in the frontal lobes of the brain while playing the game.
Additionally, in a 2012 Mayo Clinic study, researchers put aside the obvious fact that the fast-paced sessions of table tennis require concentration, hand-eye coordination and precision. However, most importantly, the game provides valuable aerobic activity, which is an effective brain and body booster, and stimulates brain cell growth in addition to strengthening brain cells. Having to calculate the speed, spin and placement of the Ping-Pong ball, in a manner of seconds, keeps the brain fully engaged. The game requires tactical thinking, creativity, coordination and agility and promotes new connections between nerve cells.
“We know that 30 minutes of aerobic activity of any kind five times per week is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. So it is important to stay active often and as early as you can,” noted Rodolfo Savica, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, with the study.
In general, playing games on a regular basis has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by almost 50%. For people already diagnosed with the disease, game-playing can aid in slowing down the disease’s progress. Playing games and learning new ones keep the mind stimulated, which helps memory function and cognitive functions such as language, attention span and spatial ability to continue to perform optimally.