Archery has been with us for thousands of years – it may date all the way back to the Stone Age, which would place it around 20,000 BC. However, considering we’ve been familiar with bows and arrows for thousands of years, there are still a number of questions surrounding this fascinating pastime.
Among the most prevalent of these is the extent to which archery is actually good exercise—and that’s the topic we’ll be diving into in today’s article. We’ll be talking about how archery is good for your physical health, but we’ll also discuss the numerous benefits the sport can provide for your mental health.
Anybody who has ever tried to shoot a bow will tell you it’s hard work, and they have a point. Correct archery technique involves a lot more than just your arms and shoulders—your core, chest, and hands all get put through an intensive workout as well.
Not only does performing archery burn calories, it has also been found to improve your posture (on account of the core activation) and boost your energy levels by increasing the amount of oxygen circulating throughout your system.
Like traditional, strength-based workout programs, archery facilitates the building of lean muscle mass, which works overtime to burn fat even while we’re at rest. Unlike traditional strength-based routines, however, archery also places a large amount of importance on flexibility. No matter which technique you’re using, you’re going to need to have a degree of flexibility in your muscles to hit the target as consistently as you’d like to hit it. And as time goes on and your aim gets more and more precise, your muscles will need to get even more limber in order to keep up with the increased demands on your fine motor functions.
Flexibility And Strength
However, that’s not to say strength doesn’t play a huge role in the activity as well—all it takes is one look at a competitive archer to realize that the pastime takes a lot more than careful aim and patience to perform. Any archery practice will see benefits from performing resistance training 2-3 times a week.
You should be sure to include time spent on your ligaments and tendons as well, though, since because archery is such a full-body activity, you’re going to need to rely on a lot more than just the largest muscles in your body. Even though your focus, concentration, and strength will all get a boost, it can also be a fantastic way to mitigate the harmful effects of rheumatoid arthritis, as Paralympian Leigh Walmsley could tell you.
There is a combination of archery and cross country – Run Archery – which involves long distance running. It’s now even close to becoming a biathlon discipline and there’s strength, conditioning, focus, and a lot more to gain the desired skillset. For serious gains, athletes exercise throughout the year and track their fitness progress in order to compete during the season.
Just like any rigorous exercise, archery will trigger your body to release those ‘feel-good’ endorphins we all associate with a good workout. The mental benefits don’t stop there, however. Meditation is becoming more and more trusted as a scientific method of dealing with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and it’s hard to imagine a more meditative exercise than archery itself.
Whether you’re just starting out as a beginner or whether you’ve been in the game for longer than you can count, the sport requires staying ‘in the moment’ in order to perform correctly. By bringing the attention down to such precise elements as your breath and breathing patterns, the mind is able to focus on just one thing at a time, proving to be an ideal anathema for racing thoughts and nervous agitation.
Archery is also being used in order to combat PTSD found in military veterans, and is an event in the Invictus Games, a competition started by Prince Harry for wounded veterans. Again, the main way it succeeds in this respect is by involving aspects of meditation. It’s impossible to shoot correctly if you’re in the wrong frame of mind, making the action by definition soothing, since you can only do it right once you’re already in that deeper state of relaxation that arises from focusing intently on one thing. Instead of stopping at traditional meditation, however, archery occupies a similar space that yoga does, by incorporating precise, measured movements into the practice.
Whether it’s stress, anxiety, or chronic pain, archery has been proven to offer relief from ailments both mental and physical. And for those of us who are fortunate enough to be in perfect health, the sheer difficulty of the sport will provide us with all of the benefits we associate with rigorous exercise.
It’s easy to see why the activity has such ardent supporters all over the world, and why it has persisted with us for tens of thousands of years. Archery isn’t just good exercise: it’s great exercise.