Squash may have earned a reputation as the sport of choice for businessmen in the 1980s, but in fact it is now played in more than 185 countries, on nearly 50,000 courts.
It’s World Squash Day and this weekend events are happening at clubs across the country, to try to encourage women to take up the sport.
To celebrate, personal trainer and fitness journalist Fiona Bugler is taking a look at the sport’s benefits - it’s a superb way to get fit, stay healthy, have some fun and de-stress.
Squash clubs, coaches, and courts can be found all over the country. You will need an opponent – but if you haven’t got one, most clubs will be able to arrange partners or games for you.
To learn the rules of the game, visit the World Squash Federation website, where you’ll find comprehensive guidelines.
Equipment-wise, “all you need to get started are a racquet, a ball (a standard squash ball approved for competitive play is the Dunlop Pro Double Yellow Dot ball), indoor non-marking shoes with the support on the ankle, and eyeguards,” says Cliff Wenn, a coach with over 25 years experience.
A good basic level of fitness will help. If you’re unconditioned, it doesn’t rule you out, but you should look for an evenly-matched partner to play against and take care not to overexert or strain yourself.
[Useful: 10 tips for new squash players]
Why it’s great
Squash was voted number one by US business magazine Forbes in its round-up of the top ten health sports, as it scored well across the fitness and health board. It works the heart and lungs, burns fat, boosts strength, develops flexibility, and improves balance and core strength.
“Expect to burn around 517 calories in a 30-minute game,” says Cliff.
When you play squash you use major muscle groups in both the upper and lower body, which allows you to pump lots of oxygenated blood around - and get your heart working up to 80 to 85 per cent of max. But as you get absorbed in the game, chances are you won’t notice how hard you’re working.
A game can last anything between six minutes to two and a half hours - and a good squash player can extend a single rally to 60 seconds. It’s calorie-burning, high-intensity interval training in short bursts, which research shows is the most effective way to burn fat.
Strength and endurance
Big leg movements are needed to reach the ball. Strength in the core and the upper body is needed to drive the ball hard. Combined, these will help achieve an overall lean and toned look.
Squash forces you to move out of your normal range of movement. Of course, playing squash will improve your flexibility and agility but most squash players need to work on this.
You can make it easier for yourself by combining squash with regular yoga, and making stretching a daily practice.
Like any ball game, squash will help with your hand eye coordination and concentration – and as there’s a wall to hit against, it arguably needs a little less skill than other ball games.
It’s no coincidence that squash has long been the choice of the stressed-out businessman – what better way to get angst out of your system than hit a ball hard and get distracted by a good game.