Celebrating World Table Tennis Day

23 April is World Table Tennis Day. We spoke to members of the Parkinson's community and table tennis coaches about the benefits this sport can have for people with the condition.

The benefits of playing table tennis when you live with Parkinson's

When you live with Parkinson's, table tennis can be one of the best ways to enjoy an active lifestyle with the condition. It can:

  • help maintain and improve leg, arm and core strength 
  • improve with hand-eye coordination 
  • improve balance and coordination   
  • be a fun and social way to be active with others.

For World Table Tennis Day, we spoke to table tennis enthusiasts within the Parkinson's community, to find out more about why they love this sport and how it helps them live with the condition.

What the Parkinson's community says about playing table tennis

Peterborough's Bat and Chat sessions offer a friendly and social space for people living with Parkinson's to play table tennis or just catch up with a coffee. Group members Phil, Eddie and Clyde, shared their experiences playing table tennis and what the Bat and Chat sessions mean to them.

Phil said: "Playing table tennis has helped me improve my balance and keep moving, even if I'm only picking the ping pong ball off the floor. We all have a laugh together and each session has a real sense of fun. It's good to meet up with a different group of friends in a lively, friendly and supportive setting to play table tennis and chat together."

Eddie said: "Table tennis is a safe, non-contact sport and it involves constant physical movement of the whole body, focusing on coordination between your eyes and arms and improving your judgement and decision making. Even keeping the score is a useful mental exercise. On top of all this, it's a great social activity, plus it’s good fun."

Clyde said: "Table tennis provides a good physical workout and enables me to play a sport at a reasonable standard. It also gives us plenty of amusement when we're trying to help each other retrieve ping pong balls from under tables, chairs or the piano, it's not always your strength when you have Parkinson's."  

"I often wish I could do it every day"

John lives with Parkinson's and plays table tennis at his local club in Milton Keynes. 

Speaking about the impact the sport has had on his life since being diagnosed with Parkinson's, John said: 

"I used to play (table tennis) a few years ago before my diagnosis and after reading about the benefits of physical activity and exercise for people with Parkinson's, I decided to try the sport again.

"I go to my local table tennis group in Milton Keynes and I find that playing the sport is very beneficial for managing my Parkinson's and I often wish I could do it every day. 

"Table tennis is great for your balance and coordination, and it really gets your muscles working, plus we have a great coach who encourages us when we're playing. It's also a really fun and social way to get active and I would definitely recommend it." 

"Sheer fun and exhilaration"

Alison is new to the world of table tennis. She shared her experience of playing in a local tournament after less than a year of playing the sport with Parkinson's. Alison said

"By August 2023 I’d been playing Parkinson’s table tennis for less than a year, and my progress was focused on 2 things: getting the ball over the net, and keeping it on the table.

"When the chance to go to Largs with 3 Parkinson’s table tennis friends came up, I followed my principle of 'always say yes'.

"The weekend was amazing, the people were so friendly and supportive, and the games were huge fun. Because the games were organised by ability, both by table tennis ability and Parkinson’s level, I was always matched against people at the same level as me, so I was stretched but never embarrassed.

"The sheer fun and exhilaration of it all means I’ve already enrolled for this year’s competition and all I can say is bring it on."

"An excellent opportunity to make new friends"

Stuart is one of the coaches for Table Tennis Scotland. He spoke about his experience of supporting the Parkinson's community in Scotland to get active. Stuart said:

"Table Tennis Scotland has been working closely with Parkinson's UK in Scotland and is fully committed to creating welcoming environments and increased opportunities for people to play at our clubs both in integrated club sessions and in dedicated Parkinson's sessions.

"The second Scottish Parkinson's International Open in August is an excellent opportunity for our players to make new friends and try out their skills in the international arena". 

Find out more about the Scottish Parkinson's International Open on the Table Tennis Scotland website.

Start your physical activity journey

Want to try a new sport and get more physically active but not sure where to start? We have resources to help you get active and feel more energised with Parkinson's.