Lucy O'Sullivan gives us an insight into the health benefits of Archery and how to keep healthy with our sport.
It's not your typical sport - it makes you feel powerful, strong, and self-reliant. It is, of course, one of the oldest sports in the world, predating written history, and was assumed to have started in the Stone Age, around 20,000BC.
Not only does it give you valuable survival skills, from when we were all cavemen, it has adapted greatly into the Olympic sport that it is today. Archery first appeared in the schedule at the 1900 Games in Paris, France.
The sport now requires control, endurance, mental toughness, focus, physical strength, and like all sports when striving for perfection, it requires determination.
Archery is a sport for everyone; children to older people, males and females, elite athletes to beginners, disabled people and able-bodied people. Archers can shoot in many different events, from outside events on sports grounds, like the Olympic format, competing indoors, and even shooting in the woods at either paper targets on a boss or 3D foam animals.
There is a round and event that will suit any ability, and any person!
Archery is predominately an upper body strength and endurance sport, using back, chest, arm and rotator cuff muscles, but it is not only that, the health benefits go above and beyond the upper body!
The stability and control that an archer has is drawn from the lower body and core. So much so, that many elite archers will work out their lower body in the gym (as well as upper body) and go for runs to improve their lower body endurance. But running not only gives you leg strength, it improves your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) which in turn improves archery performances.
Archery energy expenditures was analysed during the 2012 Olympics by the Economist. Incredibly, archery had an energy expenditure just less than that of a female marathon runner, and more than that of a 1500m runner! It is a lower impact sport, but because of the hours spent on your feet shooting, and walking to a target (around five miles in some rounds), archery can be counted as an endurance event, much like a marathon.
As a fine motor skill sport, an archer needs to make sure they are as accurate as possible, while avoiding distractions and external factors that may affect the body. It is an easy sport to learn, but continually creating a perfect shot takes year of practice and patience.
Many studies have also shown that archery has a positive affect on a persons' psychological health. A study by H. Ayan (2016), showed that archery has a positive affect on decreasing the symptoms of stress. It is a sport that helps you relax!
Staying calm by managing your breathing, and focusing on a goal that you want to achieve all day, all helps keep a person mentally happy and healthy. It is almost a form of meditation, when you just let go of stresses and let the shooting happen.
The last, and probably the best health benefit of archery, is the socialising. Yes, it is a sport where your main competitior is yourself, but what that means, is that you and others are all like minded. You are all focused on the target while holiding your bow and therefore many people can be relaxed and chatty off the line.
Elite archers can be stood next to beginners, and it really doesn't matter, as everyone is focused on just hitting the middle. As a result of this, you will gain friends from all walks of life, for life!
The best way to improve, is to join a local club and get talking to people who have competition experience. They are the people that will be able to get you signed up to the local events, and then the national ones too.
By attending events, you will be able to shoot next to different archers of varying abilities, and the great thing about our sport is that people are not afraid to share. You will be able to get tips, tricks and technique points if you ask.
Of course you don't need to do all of this, just make healthy habits and shooting lots of good shots will get you the repetition and good technique you need!