Curling is a curious sport that has gained major popularity over the last couple decades. Many have considered it to simply be shuffleboard on ice, but there’s a lot more to the sport than people think. Curling is an intriguing combination of simplicity and skilled intricacy that opens the door for all people to participate, learn, and improve. About 16,000 people participate in more than 135 curling clubs nationwide, and it is a staple sport in the Winter Olympics.
Curling involves competitors taking turns shooting and curving a 42-pound granite stone down a strip of ice towards a target. The four-person team has a rock thrower and a captain, along with the two sweepers. The rock thrower lets it fly, and the sweepers take orders from the captain as to what angles and level of sweeping is required. The sweepers are the ones you see using brooms on the ice in front of the stone. The friction from the intense sweeping briefly heats the ice and helps the rock move faster and smoother toward the target. The team that puts the most rocks near the target wins.
Curling has many benefits that make it an appealing sport for all. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to take up curling as your main activity this winter.
Exercise & Concentration
Curling provides some great exercise, particularly for the sweepers. The bursts of frantic movement with the broom serve to elevate the heart rate and provide an increased level of muscle activity. You are essentially working your whole body for cardiovascular stimulation. Sweeping highly stimulates your arms when working the broom, and when you’re delivering the rock you are often using some unique leg muscles as well. In a New York Times Article on curling, Ed McNeely, an exercise physiologist at the Peak Centre for Human Performance, claimed curling provides a range of health benefits from improved balance to core strength and decreased blood pressure.
Even if you aren’t a sweeper, moving up and down the ice throughout the game adds up to about 2 miles of walking. As Injinji article, Walk Your Way to Better Health, states, “Walking briskly has been said to lower your risk of high blood pressure, reduce body fat, and even prevent diabetes. Walking is one of those special activities that is not skill based, meaning everyone absent of injury or ailment can participate in it.” Curling provides a high level of walking activity in a short period of time – making it an easy calorie-burner.
Aside from the physical stimulation, a high level of concentration and mental stimulation is required as well. For instance, it takes a unique level of concentration to listen to the Captain’s orders while focusing on sweeping particular areas in front of the rock. This is all occurring at a bent-over angle while balancing on ice.
Often the best sports to play recreationally are the ones that require the least financial investment. Curling is very affordable for folks of all incomes. Many curling clubs simply have you pay for a membership and then give you access to curl every day of the year without constant fees. A lot of clubs also offer free practice sessions to start the learning process. The club provides all the equipment; you just have to show up. Any equipment you do buy will last for many years. You really only need some footwear, a sweater, and a good attitude. Considering you’re on ice, you may want to invest a nice pair of athletic wool socks to keep your feet warm and dry.
Everyone Can Participate
One of the greatest aspects of curling is that anyone of all ages and body types can do it. Curling is the perfect sport for family and friends because it is intuitive and there are positions that offer varying levels of physical activity. The sport is not age or gender specific, and you can start playing at any time; in fact, it is one of the only Olympic sports that people of all ages and athletic ability can go out and play. The level of activity is manageable for players from 7 – 80 years old. There are even little rocker programs that have lighter rocks that allows for small kids to push around and participate.
Curling is a unique sport that is open to all kinds of people. So why not get out on the ice and learn a new skill with interesting muscle movements and conditions. Give it a shot! All you have to do is show up and be ready for some fun.