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To someone who has never played paintball, it’s easy to write it off as an expensive game of grown-up Cowboys and Indians. What could be sillier than a bunch of adults charging around a field playing war games with paint? Well, those of us who appreciate the game can tell a different story. Not only is paintball one of the fastest-growing team sports in the world, but it also comes near the top of the popularity list for extreme sports. From weekend amateurs to world-class professionals, it is both a participator and spectator sport with a dedicated global following and a flourishing industry to match.
Like all sports, paintball is about more than just sheer enjoyment. It is about physical and mental challenge, teamwork, endurance, strategy, fitness and imagination. That’s why it can also contribute in all kinds of ways to the physical and mental health of the people who play it, at whatever level.
A game of paintball can be exhausting. In fact, it should be. Not only is it great for your cardiovascular health, but it gives you a full-body aerobic workout and is a perfect alternative to the routine of circuit training. In the gym, your regimen is planned. You know exactly what you’ll be doing at any moment. On the paintball field, however, you are up against the unknown, which adds genuine novelty and excitement to your fitness program. Doing the same exercises on every gym visit can get monotonous, and the benefits of such uniformity can diminish over time. In paintball, you are getting an intense workout that exercises all kinds of muscle combinations as you run, climb, crouch and jump your way through the action.
The kind of exercise that you undergo in a game of paintball not only hones and tones your muscles but will inevitably lead to weight loss, improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. It helps your metabolic functions and gives you much better sleep patterns. It’s also a fine way to improve motor skills like hand-eye coordination and to maintain powerful reflexes.
It’s well-known that when the body releases endorphins, these can significantly raise your mood. All good exercise will do this, but with paintball, there is the added benefit of the constant adrenaline rushes involved in simulated combat. Also, the game is played outdoors, which means you get plenty of fresh air, another mood enhancer. Just as other exercise is recognized to be effective in treating depression, paintball does it in spades.
Professional life can be profoundly stressful, especially when the economic and employment climate is as unpredictable as it has been in recent years. Relieving stress with a relaxing drink or by going fishing may be excellent responses as far as they go. However, while these activities may give you a temporary distraction from stress, for a genuine stress-busting alternative, it’s hard to beat a high-energy game like paintball. In a safe environment like the paintball field, you will find the perfect conditions to give vent to your frustration, express your anger and exploit your emotions for the good of the game.
Like all team sports, paintball is a social activity as well as a sporting one. By that, we don’t mean it’s one big party, but it’s all about interacting with teammates. Cooperation, communication and empathy are all hugely important in a paintball team. Just as a great football or soccer team strives to work as a perfect unit, a paintball team demands that its members operate with one mind to achieve the group objective by pooling ideas, abilities and energy. Win or lose, the sense of group achievement is a feeling that is hard to beat.
Don’t knock the enjoyment factor. Having fun is important for everyone’s mental health. Any kid could tell you that. Sometimes you don’t need to ask why; you just get on and play. We can intellectualize the health benefits of paintball all day long and that’s well worth doing, but never forget that this is a game. When you go to the amusement park, you may feel you need the kids with you as an excuse to go on the rides, but secretly, you’re as thrilled by the experience as they are. On the paintball field, you have automatic permission to run around ducking and shooting like a great big kid - and that’s something everyone of any age really needs.
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