Basketball fans like Blake Rubin know the excitement of watching this fast-paced and highly athletic game.  As fun as it is to watch, it is even more fun to play – and as an added bonus, there are some great health benefits that come along with the fun!  Here are just some of the reasons why you should be playing basketball.

Build strong muscles and bones!

Lifting heavy weights at the gym is not the only way to build muscle strength and bone density.  Health professionals understand that any weight-bearing activity will contribute to stronger muscles and bones – and many of the physical actions involved in basketball, including throwing, jumping and quickly changing direction put the stress on your muscles and bones that is necessary for their health.  Additionally, basketball draws heavily on plyometric actions.  These are the sorts of short, intense bursts of activity that help to develop a muscle’s explosive power.  If you have ever done a series of burpees, you already know how these sorts of actions can make you stronger and faster.

Stay lean!

As a fast-paced sport, basketball is definitely going to keep your heart pumping!  Not only does this contribute to cardiovascular strength, it also helps to torch calories.  Importantly, research shows that one of the most effective ways to burn fat while maintaining lean muscle mass is through “high intensity interval training” (HIITs).  Performing HIITS involves short bursts of sprinting or other intense activity at maximum exertion, followed by short periods of rest.  Not only does this burn lots of calories during the activity, it also has been shown to create an “after burn” for hours afterwards that means you continue to extra burn calories even at rest.  Basketball is a great way to engage in HIITs as it is a perfect blend of high energy bursts and moments of lower intensity activity.

Bust stress!

It is well-understood that intense physical activity is a great stress buster.  There are several reasons why this is so.  First, physical activity will release endorphins that increase the feeling of well-being and happiness.  We often hear this referred to as a “runner’s high”.  Second, because basketball is a team sport, players can benefit from the feeling of being a part of a group that is pulling for the same outcome.  Scientists have long understood that this feeling of having a “tribe” is an important marker of social connection and mental well-being.  And third, the nature of basketball is that players must be quick on their feet and focused in their thinking – this is not a game that allows you much time to worry about the report that is due at the office, or how you will be paying bills this month.  As a result, basketball is a form of “active meditation” that gives you a break from the worries of the day.

These are just some of the many mental, physical and social benefits that come with playing basketball – or any sport – on a regular basis.  You are guaranteed to feel better if you integrate a game of basketball into your healthy lifestyle!