With origins being traced back to India, water polo has evolved greatly since its original inception and has influences of equestrian polo, rugby and soccer. Now a celebrated Olympic sport, water polo is not only rich in tradition but also in health benefits. This blog post will look at the origins and development of water polo, water polo in the Olympics and the health/physical benefits of participating in the sport.
Water polo can be traced back to 17th Century India where British army officers experimented with a water based polo or “pulu” game. At this point players rode floating barrels representing horses as in equestrian polo and swung sticks at the ball towards a goal. This is what ultimately gave birth to the name water ‘polo’.
Later water polo made its way to Europe, where the rules developed to resemble a more rugby like feel. Players would attempt to carry the ball to the opposition’s side, with aggressive tackling accepted during this process. It wasn’t until 1870 that the London Swimming Club adopted the game, creating the first set of rules designed for the swimming pool. In 1880, the game of water polo saw drastic rule changes, adapting more soccer like qualities. The game thus moved away from a more aggressive style game to that of technique and skill, and had the addition of a ten by three foot net at both ends.
Water Polo in the Olympics
Water polo was first seen at the Olympics during the Paris Games in 1900. Great Britain was the inaugural winner of the first Gold Medal in water polo. Although the sport was held out of the 1904 Summer Games it has since been in every Summer Olympics. Women’s water polo made its way into the Olympic Games in 2000 during the Sydney Games, with Australia taking the first Gold Medal.
Health and Physical Benefits
Water fitness and athletics traditionally offer its participants a vast amount of physical benefits. The added resistance the water offers kicks every workout up a notch, providing both an aerobic and anaerobic workout in the process. Below are the health and physical benefits of participating in water polo:
Increased Endurance- Water polo players can swim upwards of 5 kilometers in a game
Weight Loss- Players can burn up to 700 calories per one hour of play
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Easy on Joints- The water act as a cushion on joints and muscles, preventing injury and general aches and pains associated with traditional fitness
Water polo helps swimmers with speed and endurance
What you didn't know about Water POlo
Benefits of Water Polo for Kids
Children playing water polo are usually in great physical condition and can be healthier than most other athletes because they exercise in water, typically burning over 1,000 calories per hour!
Due to the low impact nature of playing a sport in water, injuries are significantly less common than in most other sports.
Research indicates that kids that play water polo and splashball, especially young girls, are more likely to have a positive body image and higher self-esteem… and eat a healthier diet.
Kids involved in water polo are less likely to experiment with drugs or cigarettes because of the impact these activities have on their performance.
Physical activities are proven to relieve stress and reduce depression.
Statistics show that sports like water polo improve academic standing.
The American Physical Therapy Association finds that youth sports help to develop teamwork and leadership skills.
Motor skills, strategic thinking, and even math skills are learned by playing sports like water polo. Students develop strategic thinking skills as they must figure out the best ways to move as a unit to score a goal.
Children who exercise are more likely to continue the practice into adulthood.