The biggest difference between water polo and most other team sports is that every player is constantly moving. Using the “eggbeater” motion of treading water, the six players and the goalie on each team must uphold the cardinal rule of water polo, which is to never touch the bottom of the pool with their feet. Water polo is a game of endurance, and the physical and mental health benefits of playing are legion.
Strength training improves muscle and bone health, and can increase your metabolism and lower your blood sugar level. There are very few muscles you don't use during a water polo game. Your legs are constantly churning in the energy-saving but muscle-enhancing treading motion known as the eggbeater. The core muscles of your abdomen and back benefit from twisting to pass the ball and rapidly changing directions. And swimming from one end of the pool to the other in a race to save a pass or make a goal works your arms, upper back and shoulders. Water polo coaches advise a strength-training routine during the off-season to preserve your fitness level.
Stamina and endurance are not just beneficial while playing water polo. Your entire life out of the pool can benefit from the improved cardiovascular health and energy derived from an aerobic activity like water polo, and it can also help boost good cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and keep certain cancers and Type 2 diabetes at bay. Increased energy from exercise can help you accomplish your daily tasks with ease, which means your downtime can be used for activities that you enjoy, instead of slumping onto the the sofa in sheer exhaustion. When you're not playing or practicing with your team, maintain your stamina with at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day.
Maintaining a healthy weight is fundamental to your good health. USA Water Polo has calculated that the sport can burn up to 700 calories an hour. And because you cannot touch the bottom or sides of the pool with any part of your body, you are basically swimming up to 4 miles every time you play. Because of the high physical demands of the game, eating a healthy diet all the time and fueling yourself properly before a game -- with slow-burning carbohydrates, energy-enhancing protein and healthy fats -- can help you control your weight.
A Healthy Mind
Your mental health needs a workout as often as your body does. Participating on a water polo team gives the subtle, non-physical muscles that you rely on every day -- like your spirit, self-esteem, courage and need for human interaction – a boost. Being part of a team all working toward one common goal empowers you to be the best you can be. The endorphins produced during physical activity relieve stress and increase optimism. Just the simple act of "getting away from it all" and spending a couple of hours playing is spirit-enhancing, according to Harvard Health Publications.