Target sports

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  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times founder Dave James talks about target sports; and says they are perfect for the dental team

What do you do for fitness and relaxation when you’re away from the routine stress of your dental practice or your lab? Are you aware that mental wellbeing and physical fitness are closely linked? Proven fact, both a healthy mind and a healthy body are key to the success of any sportsperson, but it's impossible to achieve one without the other.

When thinking of sportspeople most of us tend to conjure up images of the highly physical sports such as football, tennis and athletics. These are, after all, the blue ribbon events covered regularly by our media.

Everyone is clear on the health benefits of physical sports, and the link between being regularly physically active, and the benefits that has on overall mental wellbeing are well publicised. Articles such as this one (click HERE) from the Royal College of Psychiatrists detail that link between mental wellbeing and physical activity.

I’d like to draw your attention to some alternative sporting disciplines that require slightly less physical prowess, a differing level of concentration, are more accessible, and can still provide similar benefits to the participant.

Let’s take one of my favourites, archery, as an example. Target shooting at modest ranges with medium power bows isn’t as physical as a gym session. But you may be surprised to learn that an average female can burn up to 144 calories an hour doing just that at an archery range.

That calorie burn is achieved while also improving coordination, balance, upper body strength, core strength and posture. That’s not a bad workout for a sport that also provides a healthy dose of mindfulness and meditation as part of its practice.

Archery requires intense short-burst concentration through the shot cycle. From picking a target and nocking an arrow to raising, drawing, aiming and release, the participant needs to intently concentrate on all aspects to achieve good form. This is necessary to create a repeatable process that leads to consistent aim and good shot groupings. The practice of good shooting is a mindful one.

That process of concentration throughout the shot is one where the mind is encouraged to blank out all negative thoughts and focus solely on itself. Correct placement of your fingers on the string. The touch of your hand to your face when you anchor the shot. The push and pull in your arms. Slow and steady breathing. Tension in your back throughout the release. All this is only possible when the mind is fully in the here and now.

Being focused in the here and now, and forgetting all other concerns, is a technique that’s very, very similar to the practice of mindfulness. Something used by many to unwind and achieve a bit of inner peace in any situation.

The Japanese who have not picked up a bow in anger for centuries use archery, the ‘Way of the Bow’ or Kyudo as a mechanism to provide focus and self-discipline. Kyudo has strong links with the teachings of both Shinto and Zen, providing a whole body and holistic experience of focus and concentration – whole body control means that the mind is also completely focused; Kyudo is sometimes referred to as ‘standing Zen’ because of the total immersion that is required in the technique.

It’s more inclusive

You’ll also find less popular and less physical sports to be far more inclusive. There are a range of archers who practice at all sorts of disability levels, including people who shoot with one arm and draw with their teeth. Wheelchairs are common and less able competitors can easily compete at the same level as their able-bodied counterparts.

Mel Clarke, originally from Norfolk and now living in Worcestershire, is just one example of how disability is no bar to participation in archery. A former European Champion in 2002, Mel was the first disabled archer in Europe to make it onto the able-bodied team a year later in 2003. Mel has since gone on to compete at the World Championships and the Olympics with considerable medal success of different colours.

Not to mention it’s also inclusive for all ages, the elderly and the very young can all benefit and participate together.

Good for the mind and soul

Getting out to a club to practice can be a social event. You meet like-minded participants and can engage in healthy competition, teamwork, and banter; and all these things can help boost self-esteem and teach social skills.

New experiences, having fun and making friends are all often unappreciated benefits of taking part.

Archery isn’t the only sport with these benefits. There are other less popular ranged sports like clay pigeon shooting and even things like pub darts with similar benefits.

Don’t always look to the main sports pages when you’re seeking out a new passion to help yourself or others life a better and more fulfilled life.

We’ve loads of useful resources on this and other target sports over at our site, take a look!

Dave James is the founder of He’s a passionate bowman and a fan of all target sports in general. He created his site to share his knowledge and help people make more informed choices about taking up target sports.

Photos by Vince Fleming and Annie Spratt on Unsplash