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  1. davestephans

    davestephans Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Maybe you played ping-pong as a child as your parents set up a table at the basement. Maybe you played high school because you were hanging out with buddies in the rec centre. And maybe later, you played that other version of pong that demands a table and a ball but no paddles because you know, you're in college.

    You may well have drifted away from the sport since then, but you know what? Your younger self was on to something. Ping pong is an powerful -- and fun -- way to work up a sweat. Your older self might want to test it in case you're looking for a vigorous workout with very little risk of harm. And you might even benefit from the favorable effects the game is widely credited with having to brain functions best ping pong paddles.

    Then there is Navin Kumar, a 40-year-old government employee who told me, "I am playing ping pongreally for my survival."

    Kumar has gotten back in the sport in a big way lately, despite some fairly significant health challenges. The Gaithersburg resident was born with a congenital heart disease and he has experienced five open-heart operations, two of them when he was just 3 years old. Now his heart is partly mechanical, with valves made from carbon fiber, and he uses a pacemaker.
    On a Caribbean cruise a couple of years ago, Kumar won a ping-pong tournament (most aficionados refer to it as ping pong, but the casual term remains okay), and he was reminded of just how much he'd enjoyed the game as a child, even competing in an officially sanctioned event in 1986. He started visiting the Maryland Ping pong Center in Gaithersburg but then had to take some time off because of some more heart-related problems, as well as the birth of a child.

    Since July, Kumar continues to be back at MDTTC using a vengeance, saying that, "in fact, today I am playing better because, from a heart standpoint, I have had all the open-heart surgeries I desire -- knock on wood."

    When he first got back into ping pong, Kumar was searching for an energetic but non-contact activity, because of "the mechanical stuff inside" and the fact he takes anticoagulant medicine. He's gotten his cardio level way up, all right, and some side effects that are proving very helpful in combating a much more pressing medical issue.

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    About a year and a half ago, Kumar was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He may have gotten that identification sooner, but the start of symptoms was initally difficult to distinguish from the essential tremor (ET) disorder he had long had.

    ET impacts the left side of Kumar's own body, while Parkinson's manifests itself onto his right, the side he uses to hold his paddle. During a practice session, I watched Kumar ask his coach if he can switch to a exercises on the backhand side, since hitting forehands had become temporarily difficult.

    Still, his ability to perform fluidly "was much worse three months ago," Kumar told me.
    "With the Parkinson's, I'm getting the added advantage of muscle stiffness, some improvement from the tremors, also," Kumar added. "I'm going to get the tremors, but this helps keep my hands relaxed."

    Not only that, but at the most recent visit for his neurologist, Kumar showed huge improvement on evaluations of his motor skills, best ping pong table, reflexes and memory.

    Ping pong has been linked to improved cognitive functioning at least as far back as 1992, when Japanese researchers conducted tests on regular players. Their decision: "It's evident from this research that ping pong players maintain better mental ability even in the older age compared with non-players."

    Given a little ball traveling short distances at high speed, players must not just track its moves carefully with their eyes but instantly make tactical decisions and react quickly with their bodies.

    "Study after study demonstrates how it helps the brain, it delays the onset of Alzheimer's disease," states Larry Hodges, Kumar's coach and a co-founder of MDTTC. In terms of the rest of the human body, "you've got to move so fast. At a quick rally, then you do incredible training. Your legs need to be in fantastic shape, and in case you've got extra fat, you can not move."

    Over at Northern Virginia Ping pong Center at Chantilly, head coach Zhongxing Lu pointed out (through his daughter, who interpreted his Chinese) more selling things, such as ping pong's capability to boost vision and reflexes, the unlikelihood of serious harm and the almost unlimited age range. His youngest member is 6; his earliest is 82.

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    Ping pong is surely a game one could play nicely into one's senior years, even if my visit to the Northern Virginia Ping pong Club at Arlington was any sign. There, I spoke to three members of the club executive board, two of whom were a spry 71, together with the next checking in at even sprier (one supposes) 70.

    "Apart from the physical movement, the hand-eye coordination which you develop this is wonderful," Fred Siskind of McLean (the 70-year-old) told me. "I thought I would have lost the hand-eye quickness [following many years not enjoying the game], and I am sure I am not how I had been in my 20s, but I've been amazed. ... The quickness remains there."
    Tom Norwood, additionally from McLean, added, "This really is the way I fight my diabetes. It's very good exercise. ... If it weren't for this, I would be running on a treadmill somewhere."
    The Arlington club is based out of Madison Community Center, and it has been around since the early 1990s. MDTTC, where Kumar plays, also goes back that far, but the similarities immediately start to drop off.

    Where the Arlington club has an informal setting, together with four tables in individual rooms (which was classrooms, complete with blackboards, during the building's past life as a school), the Maryland center is a complex operation, the biggest of its kind in the region and, according to Hodges, the oldest in the country.

    "As of 2007, there were just eight fulltime training centres in the United States," Hodges said. "When we started in 1992, we were the very first. ... Now there are 76 -- we have been keeping track."

    At least five full-time centers have sprung up from the Washington area in the last few decades, a clear indication that ping pong is on the growth in these parts. Hodges described Maryland as "one of the hotbeds for ping pong," and MDTTC has long been home to some of the finest ping pong players at the United States, including many national group members.
    Kumar is great at ping pong, but he knows he could become much better, and he is excited about his chances of getting there. In the brief term, he's very excited about competing at the national championships in Las Vegas this season. Obviously, Kumar also has some other significant aims in mind.

    => Read this: https://medium.com/@conghieu4690/best-ping-pong-tables-1d5067cc180

    "I look at my two women, and I want to be around them forever. I don't need this Parkinson's to have its way with me, or my heart. I play for my survival." Where to play: Many county recreation centers have tables available, a few for a small fee. In the District, Comet Ping Ping also includes a couple tables in the back of a pizza shop.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  2. violajack

    violajack Scribbler - Standard Member

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