Recently my son became interested in taking up archery. I was thrilled; while I had no experience with the sport myself, I knew it is one of the safest sports children can take up. I also think it’s a fantastic life skill to develop. I decided to get into it with him, and now we both head to the practice range once a week. It’s been a great bonding opportunity, and we have both had a lot of fun. Along the way, I have discovered awesome health benefits of archery! Check them out below.
11 Awesome Health Benefits of Archery
1. Train eye-hand coordination.
First of all, perhaps the most apparent benefit of archery is that it helps you to develop eye-hand coordination. This coordination can come in handy not just with archery, but with other sports and activities as well. It also can improve overall coordination and reflexes. This may be helpful in all areas of life.
2. Work out your core.
When you watch an archer, it doesn’t look like he or she is doing much. But pulling back on a bowstring is arduous work. And it doesn’t just engage your arms and shoulders either. It works out your back, abdomen, and pelvis—the muscles of your core.
Exercising your core is a great way to improve overall strength. Because your core is your center of gravity, these types of exercises also can increase stability and balance.
3. Burn a surprising number of calories.
How many calories can you burn shooting arrows? You are just standing in place, right? So it can’t be that many … can it?
According to Prevention magazine, if you spend half an hour on archery, you should burn around 140 calories. This fact actually is not that surprising when you think about it. Not only is it hard work to pull back a bowstring, but you also do a lot of walking back and forth to retrieve your arrows.
Here is a chart from The Economist which puts some perspective on this:
As you can see, archery comes in right behind running a marathon in terms of the calories you can burn.
So the sport is a great way to burn unwanted fat and stay in shape. In fact, I have dropped more than a few pounds myself since I started the sport. I have certainly lost more than I ever did running. Some people love to run, but not everyone gets into it. Archery suits me much better.
4. Improve focus and concentration.
Not all of the health benefits of archery are physical. Some of them are psychological. Archery requires that you screen out distractions in your environment. You need to focus on the target not just with your arrow, but with your mind.
This is a benefit which extends throughout your life. My son tells me that sometimes when he has trouble focusing on his schoolwork, he just puts himself in his archery mindset. I have noticed that this works for me at my job as well.
5. Relieve stress.
Exercise, in general, is a wonderful antidote to anxiety, and doing something you enjoy is always a great way to relieve stress. Archery is pretty relaxing as a sport. The only person placing demands on your performance is you. If your only goal is to have a good time and gradually work on improving your skills, it can be a perfect break from the hectic demands of everyday life.
Stress relief is obviously important for psychological health, but did you know it is also essential for your physical well-being? Chronic stress can lead to the development of mental illness. Psychological illnesses such as depression can in turn adversely impact physical systems, worsening heart disease and other conditions.
So it is in your best interest to try and alleviate stress in your everyday life. You probably cannot hit the archery range each day, but even if you just do it once a week, it can make a big difference.
6. Increase flexibility in the fingers.
Most of us do not spend a lot of time thinking about how flexible our fingers are. But if you are looking to increase the flexibility of your digits, archery is a fantastic way to do it. It will strengthen your fingers at the same time.
This conditioning can be surprisingly useful outside of archery. It is perfect for example for playing the guitar, or for controlling your hand while you are painting, drawing, or writing. You may also find it helpful in other sports.
7. Develop patience.
One thing you will not get with archery is instant results. It takes time to line up a perfect shot. It also takes time to hone your skills and develop greater accuracy and precision.
That means that if you are dedicated to archery, you will probably develop greater patience. This is something I have found beneficial for myself, and it has produced a significant change in my son.
I have noticed he gets down on himself less now for his mistakes. He understands that success is the result of repeated errors and failures. This process no longer intimidates him quite so much. He just sees it as part of learning.
8. Improve confidence.
That leads me to the next psychological health benefit of archery. This sport is a wonderful way to boost confidence. When you no longer see your mistakes as a “bad” thing, your self-esteem increases, and you have a clearer view of yourself as a person.
Plus, as my son puts it, archery is “badass.” Archery is a warrior’s sport. It has a mystique dating back centuries. Archers have braved battles and overcome enemy soldiers and their own fears to help win wars in ages past.
When you pick up a bow, in a way, you carry on at least a part of that tradition. You may not be facing enemy soldiers, but you do always face yourself on the range.
Anytime my son talks about archery, his whole face lights up. It is clear he proud of his accomplishments and loves to be a part of this world. His entire disposition and outlook on life seems brighter since we started.
9. Get outdoors more.
We live in the Pacific Northwest, which means that we get a lot of cloud cover and rainfall every year. That tends to keep us indoors for part of the year. During the summer, you would think we would get out more, but staying indoors becomes a habit.
Archery has been getting us outside. In terms of health, that is super important in our area. Because people in the Pacific Northwest get less sunlight than those living in other regions of the country, vitamin D deficiency is very common here.
When I say “common,” I mean “nearly ubiquitous.” Doctors here regularly recommend their patients take supplements to make up for the inadequacy.
Now, archery is like our vitamin D supplement, at least when it isn’t raining. We get out for an hour or two at a time, and we have a blast. We enjoy the sunlight and the fresh air.
10. Socialize more.
Archery is an individual sport, so you might think it isn’t as social as a team sport like football or baseball. But actually, both my son and I have met a lot of new friends at the range!
As I am sure you know if you are out of school, it becomes harder and harder to meet new people the older you get. My social circle was pretty much limited to my co-workers and a few couples my wife and I have been friends with for a long time, but now it has broadened tremendously
I’m currently meeting people I have more in common with and can hang out with on the weekends.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of socializing for health, but it cannot be understated. It isn’t just that you stress less and relax more—it goes much further than that. Scientists have even started to discover evidence that socializing may help to ward off dementia.
If that isn’t a fantastic reason to get out more and enjoy socializing around a cool sport like archery, I don’t know what is.
11. Practice mindfulness.
Another health benefit of archery is the chance to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a trendy concept nowadays, but most people assume it involves sitting on a cushion and closing your eyes. Actually, you can practice mindfulness while doing just about anything, at least in theory.
I am easily distracted. My mind tends to fly from thought to thought at a million miles an hour. Most activities just are not engaging enough to help me break those looping, branching thoughts and really be in the present moment.
Archery, however, works great! When I am really focused on my aim and am striving to get my arrows closer and closer to the center of the target, I can forget about everything else going on in my life. I am 100% present.
Mindfulness definitely isn’t just for monks. Among its health benefits are reduced anxiety, improvements to mood, and less stress. It can even help with the compulsive thoughts which characterize OCD. For some, mindfulness may combat chronic pain. It can even assist with recovery from addiction.
That is a lot of health benefits just from one aspect of archery. This really serves to illustrate how archery is a sport which is good for body, mind, and spirit. In short, it is a holistic choice for total health.
Conclusion: Archery is an Excellent Choice for Improving Your Health at Any Age
You now are acquainted with some of the benefits of archery. Archery is a wonderful way to spend more time outdoors, socialize more, and improve strength, flexibility, and stability in your core and throughout your body. It has numerous benefits for psychological health as well, enhancing concentration and even offering an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
There is one more fantastic health benefit of archery which I haven't mentioned, and that is that almost anyone can practice this sport to improve their well-being. It does not matter if you are young or old or what your body type is. Even many disabled people are able to pull back on a bowstring and shoot an arrow into a target. This all-inclusiveness makes this sport one of the most accessible ones out there.
So if you have been trying to decide whether or not to give archery a try or to enroll your child in archery lessons, hopefully learning these health benefits has helped you make up your mind. Go for it. Those who make archery an ongoing practice in their lives can cultivate greater physical and psychological health over the many years that they enjoy the sport.