We reveal how netball can help you torch calories, strengthen your joints, and sharpen your mind.
Did you feel inspired by the England Netball Team’s spectacular gold medal win at the Commonwealth Games last month? Well, with the longer days and soft summer breeze in the air, there’s never been a better time to don that bib and step back onto the court. ‘
Since the win, our online netball session finder has seen a massive 2,000 per cent increase in visits,’ says Helen Wynn, head of products and programmes at England Netball. The sport is truly having a moment, with adult participation up 16.4 per cent in a year, according to Sport England’s Active Lives survey. ‘We’re sure this fantastic spotlight on the sport will continue,’ says Helen. ‘We’re proud of our approach – it looks to ensure there’s a format of the game for all kinds of motivations, circumstances and needs. There really is a way for any woman to get involved in netball, their way.’
Some eight out of 10 women have played netball at some point in their lives, but experiences differ wildly. While many of us have fond memories of playing the sport at school, others will remember their PE sessions as something a little bit more like whistle-regulated torture. Thankfully, modern-day netball referees are much more relaxed about footwork and finer technicalities – especially for hobby groups. They’d rather the game was flowing and fun. This is one of the reasons women are returning to the sport in their masses, with the Back To Netball (englandnetball.co.uk/backtonetball) initiative enabling 11,000 women to return to the game in the last year alone.
For many women, it’s a very valuable form of ‘me time’ in their otherwise hectic lives. ‘The Back To Netball sessions are intentionally designed to be friendly and welcoming, encouraging women back to the sport after a long break,’ says Helen. ‘The people running the sessions are specially trained to support those who might be a little bit rusty to return to netball safely; and most of all, to enjoy themselves!’
Netball is not only great fun, it’s also seriously good for your health. Most adult women play netball in social leagues with a big range of ages and abilities, so wherever you’re at with your personal fitness levels, you should be able to find a club or session that suits you. Generally, netball players find themselves running short distances quickly for much of the game, depending on their position, for example, when they are trying to catch a ball, get away from a defender, or mark an attacker.
‘Netball will help you achieve a higher level of fitness through constant pace changes in the game and quick footwork, similar to a HIIT style workout,’ agrees Sian Foley, head of coaching at England Netball. This kind of sprint interval training can burn more calories and improve cardiovascular fitness more quickly than longer endurance workouts, according to research from the American College of Sports Medicine – making netball a great way to lose weight or to maintain a healthy BMI.
The sport will also have you toning up your muscles and improving your balance as you leap to make a catch, pivot on your feet, throw the ball to team mates or move to mark other players. ‘You’ll develop stronger muscles – including those vital stabilising core muscles,’ says Sian. ‘Your joints benefit for the same reason – it’s all thanks to the landing and jumping when catching the ball, or when you need to try to shake off a defender or mark a player.’
Due to the level of mental co-ordination required, netball is also a boost to your brain’s agility. Meanwhile the sociable, absorbing nature of playing (and perhaps winning!) means you’re more likely to stick with this healthy hobby than you are to keep up a gym routine. Team sport players, who feel a sense of camaraderie and purpose in their fitness routine, have been shown to express higher levels of life satisfaction than those who work out alone, as reported by the London School of Economics.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to lace up those trainers and get back on the netball court. You’ll make some brilliant new friends, improve your physical health and boost your mental wellbeing. That’s what we call winning gold!