This is a guest post by Ryan Spadafora, owner of FiveToolSchool.com, a baseball website devoted to improving all aspects of a player’s game through the best tips, drills, workouts, and gear available.
When you think about the potential health benefits of baseball, there are a few obvious ones that come to mind – general body strengthening, cardiovascular health, you know, the benefits that come from most sports.
You probably don’t need a blog post explaining those things.
However, there are some other health benefits that most people don’t ever think about when it comes to America’s pastime. Those are the ones that I’m interested in diving into.
In no particular order, we’ll be exploring these often overlooked benefits:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Hand Eye Coordination
- Fast Twitch Muscle Development
- Sprinting and it’s many health benefits
- Flow State of Mind
- Vitamin D
- All for One and One for All!
#1 Sunflower Seeds and Baseball
Sunflower seeds and baseball go together like… well, like something that goes together really well. Chances are if a player isn’t chewing tobacco (one of the few unhealthy parts of baseball culture) then they are chewing sunflower seeds!
It’s no secret that baseball players have an oral fixation. It’s weird, I’ll admit. But it’s definitely an undeniable part of the game. And what better to fixate on than sunflower seeds?
How are Sunflower seeds healthy?
- Reduces Risk for Heart Disease – Just ¼ cup of sunflower seeds contain 80% of your daily value of vitamin E. Among the many other great things vitamin E does, it reduces inflammation which is a contributing factor in heart disease. It’s also been shown that frequently consuming sunflower seeds helps balance cholesterol, reduces hypertension, and lowers blood pressure.
- Helps Prevent Cancer – Being high in antioxidants helps sunflower seeds repair DNA and relieve oxidative stress which can lead to the formation of cancer cells.
- Promotes Healthy Thyroid Function – How? Selenium, that’s how! Selenium is an extremely beneficial compound and one of the healthiest things to consume when it comes to thyroid health.
- High Levels of Magnesium – Magnesium is another compound that many people are lacking in their diet. Sunflower seeds are full of it. Magnesium helps strengthen bones, prevent muscle cramps, relieve symptoms of depression + anxiety, and the list goes on!
- Improves Skin Health – Our friend Vitamin E is back and this time, she’s keeping that skin healthy and glowing. People pay a lot of money on high end Vitamin E skin treatments, if only they’d pick up some sunflower seeds instead!
Add some sunflower seeds into your 500 calorie diet – they’re a great option!
#2 Hand Eye Coordination
According to a panel of experts at ESPN, baseball has the highest degree of difficulty when it comes to hand-eye coordination (as compared to other sports). This makes sense, obviously. Afterall, trying to hit a 90 mph fastball with a baseball bat is nearly impossible.
Add to that the ability to catch it and throw it accurately once it is hit, and you’ve got yourself one hard sport for your hands and eyes to coordinate on.
But isn’t hand-eye coordination a skill, not a health benefit? Not exactly.
Improving hand-eye coordination has a few positive health benefits that come as a byproduct.
Some of the Health Benefits of Improved Hand Eye Coordination
- Improved reaction times – Both mentally and physically. Solve problems faster and react quicker in difficult, or even dangerous, situations.
- Improved strategic thinking – This is especially true in children. Developing HEC forces the mind to think ahead and imagine the reactions needed to accomplish a task. This carries over into other areas of strategic thinking where mental foresight is required.
- Increased fine motor skills – Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between fine motor skills and academic achievement. So get your kid in tee-ball today!
#3 Fast Twitch Muscle Development
Fast twitch muscle fibers are the ones that allow you to make quick bursts. Sprinting, jumping, and twisting rapidly are all athletic movements in a baseball player’s arsenal. They can’t do it without fast twitch muscles.
Because these muscles allow for short bursts of energy, they tire out quicker than their more endurance-focused muscle cousin – slow twitch muscle fibers.
But baseball has never been a sport that revolved around endurance (unless you count the fact that most games last over 3 hours). The longest run any baseball player would ever have is 360 feet – this would be an inside the park home run, a very rare occurrence in baseball.
This means that your fast twitch muscles are the most prevalent muscles being used while you’re on the baseball diamond.
What does fast twitch muscle development mean for you?
Well, for one, these are the largest muscles in your body. That means strengthening them will give you a larger mass and more defined look – if that’s what you’re after.
Aside from the vanity of having larger muscles, having stronger fast twitch muscles will make you quicker and more explosive in general. These are strengths that you can carry into a multitude of other sports, and lifestyle activities.
Check out these 17 Baseball Workouts to get some great exercises for your fast-twitch muscles.
#4 The Health Benefits of Sprinting
In a very similar fashion to fast twitch muscle development, baseball is a sport that almost entirely revolves around short, quick sprints.
And sprinting has a multitude of health benefits.
Among the lesser known benefits of sprints are:
- Lose Body Fat – Sprinting is actually a great way to effectively (and noticeably) shed fat stores from your body. Most people think of longer cardio activities for this, but sprinting is equally (if not more) powerful.
- Reduce Stress – Sprints release large amounts of endorphins and other stress relieving, feel good, compounds.
- Improves Insulin Regulation – This study breaks down how high intensity workouts (like sprinting) deplete your muscles of glycogen which helps eliminate extra sugars from the blood. This is great news for anyone worried about developing type 2 diabetes.
The list goes on when it comes to sprinting. This is certainly a great health benefit of baseball.
#5 A Flow State Of Mind
Achieving a flow state of mind, or being “in the zone” as it’s sometimes called, is one of the most amazing things that a human can experience – and it happens all the time in baseball. In fact, every time the ball is pitched or hit towards you, an experienced player will enter a small moment of flow state.
What is a Flow State, Exactly?
According to positive psychologist and coiner of the term, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a flow state is,“being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
What are the Benefits of Experiencing a Flow State?
The benefits of the brain experiencing this state of mind frequently, are rather profound. It increases overall mental health in a way similar to meditation. Regular flow state immersion leads to a more positive life experience in general.
It has also been shown to reduce delinquent behavior in youths that are exposed to these states regularly. Crazy right? So go play some baseball and get your flow on!
#6 Vitamin D, Baby!
Baseball is one of a few sports that is played extensively in the summertime, and in the sunshine (most of the time at least). And what does sunshine have in abundance?
According to a Scientific American article from 2009, three quarters of young adults and adolescents in the U.S. are deficient in vitamin D. This can cause all sorts of harm to our bodies.
That’s right, Vitamin D!
That’s why it’s awesome just standing in the outfield during a baseball game and soaking up some sunshine can do all of the following, according to webMD:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Reduce Risk of Diabetes
- Lower Risk of Heart Attack
- Lower Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Inhibit the Growth of Cancer Cells
- Reduce Chances of Multiple Sclerosis
#7 All for One and One For All – The Social Benefits of Baseball
Playing any team sport is going to have a positive impact on one’s health. Baseball, in particular, has one of the largest social aspects of any team sport.
Because, as anyone who’s ever played the game will tell you, a baseball player spends a lot of time in the dugout between innings – socializing, building relationships, and working together towards the common goal of victory.
How This Benefits Kids In Particular
According to Edutopia.org:
“Studies have shown a direct correlation between physical activity and academic performance. A University of Kansas study looking at the performance of students in grades 9 to 12 showed that more than 97% of student athletes graduated high school, 10% higher than those students who had never participated in sports. Athletes were also shown to have better G.P.A. outcomes than non-athletes.”
Some other social and mental health benefits of baseball:
- Helps develop Soft Skills
- Builds Positive Role Models
- Heightens Communication Skills
- Fosters Decisive, Confident Actions
- Teamwork Skills
- Time Management
- Promotes High Self Esteem
Health Benefits of Baseball – A Recap
Next time someone asks you what the health benefits of baseball are (no one will ever ask you that), you’ll have 7 strong answers to give them!
But seriously, if you’re on the fence about whether baseball has enough to offer you health-wise, look no further than this article. There are plenty of reasons to get out on the baseball field today!