When you hear mention of the sport of archery, you probably think of someone simply using a bow and arrow to shoot at a target. You may even wonder how this could be fun, let alone good for you. Well, let me shake up your perspective a bit to illuminate how this sport can actually be good for your overall health and mental strength.
Using a bow and arrow dates back to 50,000 BC, but back then it was more of a functional apparatus used for hunting and survival. The longstanding history of what we know today as archery can be seen in Egyptian civilization around 2800 BC, when the bow and arrow was more often used as a defense mechanism to ward off enemies or to protect or conquer territories and lives. In the 16th and 17th centuries, archery became a well-practiced and enjoyable sport in England. Competition among archers rose due to the physical skills and mental focus it required to become very good at hitting the bullseye.
I can remember first being introduced to archery in high school gym class. While I had no idea of what it took to perform the skills of a professional level archer, I really enjoyed the practice of focusing on a specific target and then using my entire body to position the bow, pull back the arrow, and let it fly. It was challenging and fun. And, I actually became pretty good at it (for a novice)!
It turns out that this skillful sport has many physical and mental benefits. Let me share just a few to ramp up your next “out of your comfort zone” experience. Here a few benefits to be gained from practicing archery:
1. You will increase your strength.
Archery requires solid positioning (core strength) as well as upper body strength. It involves steady strength and control of your shoulders, chest, arms, and hands.
2. You will gain greater balance and control.
Even with great muscular strength, your brain must work hard to keep your entire body balanced for this sport. Your cerebellum (located at the back of your brain) sends neurotransmitters to the muscles required to hold you steady. Releasing the bowstring in a consistent manner requires smooth control.
3. You will improve your coordination.
During the entire setup and release of the arrow, your eyes, core, upper body, and hands must be totally in sync with each other.
4. You will develop greater focus and endurance.
While your physical body is positioning itself in the best stance for an optimal target hit, your mind needs to tune out distractions and learn how to optimize its focus. The frontal lobe of your brain does this work. It’s neural network helps you to concentrate and give attention to the entire “aim, pull back, let go” process.
Just imagine, long ago all of these skills were performed on horseback while relying on the guidance and steadiness of the horse, or in a chariot — a very shaky, moving device. Here is where core strength and leg strength really came into play!
So, whether you choose to just go for a one-time archery experience or decide that this sport could be a part of your regular health/exercise regime, it is worth exploring this beautifully skillful practice. Aside from the many physical benefits, it will help you to develop specific attention and a very focused nature. It will help you to learn how to tune out your cell phone, social media, and the mindless chatter. It can guide you to allow your great brain to work synchronistically, accessing your neural network of balance, control, focus, attention, coordination, and strength. Heck, those are plenty of great benefits from simply shooting a bow and arrow !
Featured photo credit: Jakub T. Jankiewicz via flickr.com