The Health Benefits of Archery

It always seems like you never have enough time. You have to work, obviously, but you want to enjoy your free time and stay in good physical shape as well. Plus, you want to have a social life and learn new skills. Well what if you could do all that at once? What if there was an activity that was not only fun but helped you stay in shape while giving you an opportunity to socialize. What if it even increased your productivity and relieved stress?

Archery does all this and more. As a pastime, it’s a well-rounded activity that can improve your life physically, mentally and even financially. To understand why, learn about the many health benefits of archery.

Physical Benefits of Archery

Strength

Archery is one of the best ways to build practical upper-body strength. Drawing a bow requires effort from several muscle groups, mainly those of the shoulder and back like the deltoids and trapezius, but also muscles in your hands and forearms. In fact, it’s the same effort it would take those muscles to lift a dumbbell of the same weight as your bow’s draw weight. 

For example, if your recurve is rated for 60 pounds of draw weight, then drawing it is like doing a row exercise with 60-pound dumbbells. That’s serious weight! Of course, if you’re using a compound bow, the cams’ let-off decreases this significantly. A 60-pound compound bow with 75% let-off will only take 15 pounds of effort to draw. Still, this is a decent amount of resistance.

When you’re on a shooting range, you perform repeated, rhythmic repetitions of this exercise. With enough repetitions, your muscles will develop “micro-tears.” This is why your shoulders will probably be sore after a long day on the range. When the muscles heal, they reform bigger and stronger. 

Exercises that require movement, like drawing a bow, are called dynamic exercises. Archery also requires isometric exercise, though. This is where you don’t move any part of your body with your muscles but rather hold still and maintain a difficult position. This happens in archery because you have to hold the bowstring back for at least a few seconds while you aim. 

Unlike dynamic exercises which can build mass and increase muscle power, isometric exercises build stability and balance and improve joint health. Holding your drawn bow provides this exercise for both arms.  

Coordination

It’s pretty hard to become a successful archer without developing excellent hand-eye coordination. Traditional bows like longbows and recurves usually require something called instinctive aiming. With this method, you don’t necessarily line up your target with any kind of sight. Instead, you use your instincts. With enough practice, your body and mind become more in tune with your bow and can feel the power and angle required to hit a certain target. This takes a highly skilled amount of coordination.

It’s more than just aiming, though. It takes balance to draw a bow, hold it steady, and aim accurately. Archery helps build nerve endings and increase whole-body coordination. This can help you in many aspects of life from playing with your kids to doing yard work.  

Weight Loss

When people think about losing weight, they usually imagine long jogs or high-intensity aerobics classes. They should really add archery to the list. Weight loss is all about burning more calories than you consume, so burning more through exercise really helps. It turns out that archery burns quite a bit.

Exactly how many calories you’ll burn in an archery session depends on a lot of factors: your draw weight, how fast you shoot, and how far you have to walk to and from the target, not to mention your age, size, and sex. However, an average-sized man shooting at a decent pace can expect to burn close to 200 calories per hour. Competitive archers often burn well over 300.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Archery may not be as intense as jumping rope or doing sprints, but it still elevates your heart rate. To get the best cardio out of your archery experience, keep the pace up. That means walking briskly to retrieve your arrows as well as shooting at short intervals.

When you elevate your heart rate through an exercise like archery, it strengthens your heart in general. That means it needs to work less when you do everyday activities and is more resistant to heart disease. Cardiovascular endurance is one of the most important aspects of general health and fitness.

Flexibility

Archery requires full range of motion from a number of joints, mostly in the arms and hands. Over time, repeated shooting can stretch the muscles and build dexterity. You’ll learn to use your fingers in different positions, which can even translate to practical uses like writing and typing. 

Mental Health Benefits of Archery

Relaxation

You rarely think of sports as “relaxing,” but with archery that’s just the case. In fact, shooting a bow can provide a kind of meditation. Most archers get into a rhythm, not just with their shots but also their breathing since you usually release your bow in between breaths. Moreover, aiming requires intense focus, which clears the mind of other worries. 

Archery can help you perfect what many refer to as mindfulness. Basically, it helps you stay in the present. In addition to the intense focus, you have to be aware of your whole body, environmental factors like gravity and wind, and heights and distances. This relieves anxiety and can make you more resistant to future stress. 

Confidence

As a single-person sport, archery builds considerable self-confidence. Progress is easy to measure as your shots get more and more accurate and your scores get higher and higher. 

Plus, archery requires many different skills: accuracy, strength, balance, and coordination. By gaining proficiency in all these skills through one activity, archers develop well-rounded confidence in both their physical and mental abilities.    

Community

Researchers have found that one of the most important things for our mental health is a sense of community. Human beings are social creatures, and feeling like we have an extensive community we can rely on makes us feel safe and helps prevent anxiety and depression. Along with belonging and support, community gives you a sense of purpose because you also support those who you. Archery provides all of that.

In an archery club or at archery events, you meet people from all walks of life. And since you all share a common passion, you’re bound to make some friends. As time goes on, you can make some lasting memories with these friends at practice and tournaments, further strengthening your ties to the archery community. 

Impulse Control

Studies have shown that impulse control is one of the biggest factors in future success and mental wellbeing. Those who can delay immediate gratification in exchange for a better future reward often lead more fulfilling lives. More significantly, they avoid behavioral problems and bad habits that can cause pain and grief like compulsive gambling, substance abuse, or criminal behavior. 

Archery is one of the best ways to train impulse control. Specifically, you have to master your impulses to shoot at just the right time. You have to be aware of your body and environmental factors and learn when is the right time to release the arrow. As time goes on, this teaches you to control your impulses.

Impulse control is a necessary skill for children to learn and can benefit them in school and life. For this reason, archery is a great sport for kids, both physically and mentally.

Focus

It goes without saying that archery requires high amounts of focus. You have to focus on the target, the arrow, and your body. Losing your focus to even the slightest distraction can put your shot off by a considerable amount. 

Skilled archers learn to tune out everything that isn’t part of the shooting experience. They learn to devote all their mental energy to the singular goal of putting the arrow in the target. Their brain becomes more resistant to distraction and can stay focused for longer and longer periods of time.

Naturally, this increased focus can help you in other aspects of life. In work and school, you’ll find yourself more easily staying on target—metaphorically speaking. Children especially can benefit from this.

Joy and Happiness

One of the main chemicals in the brain responsible for feelings of joy and happiness is serotonin. The brain releases this chemical whenever you achieve something, thereby training you to make progress and enjoy doing it. 

Archery is no exception. Even a little achievement like hitting the bullseye can release a bit of serotonin and lift your mood. Long-term progress and successful competing can cause even more joy. 

Even more importantly, they give you a large reservoir of memories to think back on to lift your spirits. Studies have found that just imagining past achievements also releases serotonin and improves your mood and outlook.  

Fiscal Benefits of Archery

Monetary Savings

When it comes to hobbies, archery is a relatively inexpensive one. Yes, you have to buy your bow and arrows. You may even have to pay club dues or competition entrance fees, but in the long run, you spend a lot less than you would just going clubbing on the weekend. 

Let’s say you spend $500 to get a high-quality compound bow and arrows and pay another $100 for a year’s membership at an archery club for $600 total. That’s a lot less expensive than going out on the weekend. According to an Eventbrite study, people spend, on average, $81 per night when they go out. That means that if you go out eight times, you’ve spent more money than you would for a year of archery. 

Plus, after the initial investment, archery requires little money unless you pay club dues, and as you can see, a year at an archery club is roughly the same price as one night at the bars. Even hobbies like bowling or going to the movies cost repeated fees that add up. In the end, devoting your time to archery can help you save money. You’ll be having fun for a lot less.  

Conservation

Archery also has fiscal benefits for the nation as a whole. Due to a federal excise tax, manufacturers pay between 10% and 11% toward wildlife conservation and restoration whenever you buy their archery equipment. This increased funding for conservation actually encourages more interest in archery due to more bowhunting opportunities, and more interest in archery in turn means more purchases of archery equipment. That means more funding for conservation, and the cycle continues.

Productivity

Archery can help make you more productive, primarily due to the mental health benefits we discussed before. Your increased focus, impulse control and self-confidence translate directly to work or school. You’ll get more done, be more decisive, and have more faith in your own work.

Additionally, archery is a healthy way to relieve the stress of work or school. The relaxing effects of archery can help you push the stress and anxiety aside and recharge for the next day or week of working or studying. You’ll be less likely to burn out.

In the long run, this increased productivity translates to success. Ultimately, archery can boost both your career and financial growth.

The Healthy Archery Lifestyle

As you can see, almost everyone stands to benefit from the archery lifestyle. Not only does it improve your physical health, it grants you mental stability that will keep you focused and motivated to continue improving your physical fitness, not to mention work. 

Of course, it doesn’t have to be all about you. Consider what these skills and experiences could do for your children, family, or even friends. The time you spend together is just one more thing you can add to the long list of the health benefits of archery.