Is Hockey Good Exercise? We Think So!

Is Hockey Good Exercise? We Think So!

A Hockey Workout

From team camaraderie to goal-scoring exhilaration, hockey is an exciting game to watch and even more fun to play. This ice sport definitely gets the blood pumping, but is hockey good exercise?

Hockey is an excellent form of exercise because it engages the entire body at high-intensity intervals, requires superior agility and balance, and involves explosive upper and lower body power. Playing hockey for 75 to 150 minutes per week should be sufficient to get you into your target heart range.

We’ve all seen exhausted hockey players panting after their shifts or walking to the dressing room covered in sweat, so it’s no secret that this sport is a great workout. Still, what is it about hockey that makes it such an effective exercise, and how can you train for it even when you’re off the ice? Keep reading to find out!

What Good Exercise Entails

Let’s set the scene first, shall we? Before we get into why hockey is good exercise, we need to clear up what “good” exercise actually means. What determines a good workout, and how can you monitor it? Well, there are a few components.

Gets Your Heart Rate Up

One of the best ways to gauge your workout’s effectiveness is by checking to see that you’re within your target heart rate zone. Target HR zones are guidelines of how fast your heart should be beating to get the most out of your exercise routine.

To find your average maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Once you find this number, you can use it to determine different heart rate zones. Moderately intense activities should increase your heart’s beats per minute (bpm) up to 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. Similarly, vigorously intense exercise should bump your heart rate up to 70-85% of your maximum bpm.

When measuring your heart rate, find your pulse in your neck or wrist and count the beats for 30 seconds. Then, multiply by two to calculate your beats per minute.

Use this chart as a guide in finding the target range for your age group.

Age Target Moderate Zone (50-70%) Target Vigorous Zone (70-85%) Maximum Heart Rate (100%)
20 years 100-140 bpm 140-170 bpm 200 bpm
25 years 98-137 bpm 137-166 bpm 195 bpm
30 years 95-133 bpm 133-162 bpm 190 bpm
35 years 93-130 bpm 130-157 bpm 185 bpm
40 years 90-126 bpm 126-153 bpm 180 bpm
45 years 88-123 bpm 123-149 bpm 175 bpm
50 years 85-119 bpm 119-145 bpm 170 bpm
55 years 83-116 bpm 116-140 bpm 165 bpm
60 years 80-112 bpm 112-136 bpm 160 bpm
65 years 78-109 bpm 109-132 bpm 155 bpm
70 years 75-105 bpm 105-128 bpm 150 bpm

The goal is to get your heart rate in the moderate zone for 150 minutes a week or in the vigorous zone for 75 minutes per week. If possible, exercising for 30 minutes every day is ideal. However, any activity that gets your heart rate up is better than nothing at all.

Full Body Workout

A great workout is a workout that incorporates the entire body. Of course, you can partake in split workouts where you exercise target muscle groups, but a full-body routine is more effective and time-friendly.). Unless you can strictly commit to hitting the gym five to six times a week, full-body workouts are going to give you the bigger payoff.

When you use the entire body - arms, legs, core, chest, and back - all of those muscle groups are engaged every time you work out. So, it’s not as big of a deal if you miss a session once in a while. On the other hand, if you skip a day on a split workout routine, you’ll be neglecting that entire muscle group for more consecutive days.

Plus, you’ll likely exert more energy (a.k.a. burn more calories) when you participate in full-body workouts, and it’ll help you build endurance, core stabilization, and mobility.

Improved Flexibility

It’s easy to shy away upon hearing the word “flexibility”. Many people only associate this term with activities like yoga or ballet (both are great workouts, too, by the way), but flexibility is essential for everyone - especially athletes.

Flexibility refers to a joint’s range of motion. Thus, better flexibility leads to greater mobility. It’s not all just about doing the splits; increasing your flexibility can help you move in ways you didn’t think you could anymore. Stretching is increasingly beneficial as you age because it helps maintain free, easy movement. It’s a great way to reduce feelings of stiffness in your body: some of which may be causing you pain.

Beyond that, flexibility contributes to better posture, coordinated muscles and lessens the risk of injuries. That’s precisely why it’s so important to warm your body up by stretching before you begin a workout.

Why Hockey Is Good Exercise

Now that we know the various components of a “good” workout, let’s dive into your real question: is hockey a good exercise? The answer is yes! This sport requires cardiovascular endurance, full-body engagement, and even flexibility. We’ve also got another article covering why hockey is good for you, which looks at other qualities than just the great exercise it provides.

Here is a bit more detail on why hockey is such a beneficial activity.

Agility and Balance

With all the quick starts and stops and changes of direction in hockey, every player always needs to be on their toes. Everyone needs to be able to maneuver quickly and react suddenly. That’s where flexibility comes in.

The more flexible you are, the less likely you are to get hurt when making these quick, sharp movements. In tricky situations, your increased mobility can help you stretch your body to reach the puck too. Of course, following the play means nothing if you can’t stay on your feet. You guessed it: flexibility aids balance as well.

We can’t overlook how vital great mobility is for goalies too. Playing in the net is all about agility. Sudden, precise movements, coordination, and adaptability are pillars of being a goalkeeper. You’ll probably find yourself in awkward, stretched out positions during games, and some of them might be painful or downright impossible if you didn’t have that mobility.

So, while hockey isn’t all about stretching, this game certainly tests one’s flexibility.

HIIT

Have you heard of HIIT workouts before? HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is an acclaimed way of optimizing your workout even after you’ve thrown in the towel. A HIIT workout entails short periods of intense, vigorous exercise rotated with gentler rest and recovery times. This method boosts your metabolic rate for hours after you’ve concluded your workout.

Since hockey consists of short, vigorous shifts on the ice alternated with rest times on the bench, this sport is actually a HIIT workout. To learn why this is the case, make sure to read our article looking into why hockey players’ shifts are so short.

Most HIIT workouts only last between 10-30 minutes. Hockey play times are typically double this duration over an entire game, making it an incredibly beneficial form of exercise. All of that time spent in the vigorous heart rate zone will make your cardiovascular system very happy.

Power

Faceoffs require players to go from zero to 100 in a second. It’s your power that lets you do that. Blasting off with acceleration like that relies on your entire body. Skating clearly works the lower body (glutes, quads, adductors, and hamstrings) each time you take a stride, especially as you explosively build momentum, but that’s not the only muscle group needed to create power.

Hockey wouldn’t be anything without the unsung heroes of the sport: the core muscles. A strong core provides balance and stability on the ice. Overall, they enhance your skating abilities.

Finally, if it weren’t for your upper-body strength, hockey would just be skating. Think about the muscles engaged when you take a shot: your forearms and biceps. A lot of power comes from these areas when you’re shooting, but they also help you pass, win faceoffs, and generally handle the puck.

You exercise all of these muscle groups - upper-body, lower-body, and core - when playing a hockey game, making this sport a true full-body workout.

Beneficial Off-Ice Exercise

Are you looking to get some more training sessions in between practices and game days? Here are a few beneficial off-ice exercises, also known as dryland training, that will help you improve your game when you step back into the arena.

Conditioning

As previously mentioned, hockey is a game of interval training. As such, HIIT is an incredibly beneficial way to workout. This can include exercises like 30-second sprints at maximum speeds followed by a recovery period three times as long. The resting period doesn’t entail stopping activity completely but rather doing low-intensity work like walking or jogging.

Interval training is the best way to boost your stamina for game-like situations. Make sure to take a look at our article covering youth hockey strength and conditioning programs to follow.

Plyometrics are fantastic exercises for building stamina and strength. These are bodyweight activities that include explosive motions like jumping. If you need help kicking your body into gear, plyometrics will have you going full speed ahead.

Since hockey is a lengthy game, endurance is also of the utmost importance. Conditioning doesn’t specifically refer to cardio but rather the fitness of all the systems needed to play the sport. When working on endurance, aim for at least 15 reps of any given exercise. That’s why plyometrics works best in circuit workouts. This will help keep you going when the going gets tough.

Stretching

Regular stretching will help you feel better before, during, and after hockey. Working on your flexibility can prevent injuries, increase your mobility, and help reduce pain. It’s easy to incorporate yoga into your exercise routine, even if you think you’re the world’s least flexible human. In fact, that probably means you really need it.

Tons of guided yoga videos are available online, but you’ve likely worked on your flexibility throughout your hockey career already, whether you knew it or not. Set aside some time to work on your mobility intentionally. Yoga is a great way to check-in with your mental wellbeing too.

Reflex Exercises

Fast reaction time is vital to staying at the top of your game as a hockey player. The puck moves quickly, and you need to be able to get there in time. If you’re a goalie, you definitely know this to be true.

Dedicate some time to sharpening your reflexes. Try picking up tennis, learning to juggle, or using a reaction ball with a partner or against the wall. It may not feel like a workout you’re accustomed to, but you’ll notice the payoff on the ice.

Why Regular Exercise Is Important

We all know that exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, but what exactly does it help with? Well, the answer is just about everything. If you haven’t already made it a point to get that body of yours moving, keep reading. We think we might convince you to opt for the stairs instead of the elevator next time.

Disease Prevention

Heart disease is the leading killer worldwide. It may seem pesky or unimportant to schedule those workouts, but we promise it’s worth it.

Exercising regularly can help reduce your risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, strokes, high cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome. On top of that, moving your body can help prevent arthritis, falls, and several forms of cancer. Are you sure you want to skip that workout?

Pain Relief

After a challenging workout, sometimes the last thing you want to think about is exercising again. It may seem counterintuitive, but getting back in the gym (or rink) is a great way to combat sore muscles. Approach with caution, though. This doesn’t mean that you should repeatedly work the same muscle group to fatigue every day. Your body still needs time to rest, and your muscles need to recover, so switch it up a bit.

Brain chemicals called endorphins are also released when you partake in physical activity. These neurochemicals are what make exercise feel so good. Some even call it “runner’s high”. Endorphins work as natural painkillers. Try to hit the treadmill instead of grabbing the Advil bottle next time - if you can bear it!

Mental Wellness

Getting your body moving on a regular basis can work wonders for your mental health. The same brain chemicals that help relieve pain - endorphins - also support mental wellbeing. While it’s a bit of a stretch to say that exercise cures depression, it can certainly help some people.

Not only do endorphins reduce pain, but they also increase pleasure. This makes them a great tool to have in your mental health toolbox. So, if you’re feeling blue or struggling with your stress level, try to incorporate regular exercise into your life and see if that improves your mood at all.

Enhance Energy

Expending energy can boost energy. Taking time to engage in physical activity can put some extra pep in your step and fight fatigue. In fact, studies show that sedentary people who begin consistent exercise routines reported decreased levels of fatigue compared to those who did not change their lifestyle.

Exercise is such a powerful tool for energy and attentiveness that, on average, a good workout is even more beneficial than stimulant medications like prescriptions used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

On top of that, the more you increase your muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance, the easier it will be to tackle everyday activities without feeling over-exerted. Some of those draining chores might not seem too bad once you commit to regularly moving your body.

Sleep Quality

A good workout can leave your muscles feeling tired, but did you know that exercise promotes deeper and better sleep as well? If you find yourself tossing and turning in your bed at night, fit a workout into your day.

Be careful that you don’t work up your sweat too late in the day, though; getting your blood pumping may boost your energy too close to bedtime. Tie up your laces when the sun is out so you can skip the melatonin at night.

Boost Metabolism

Weight management is one of the reasons people work out. The more time you spend moving, especially in your target vigorous zone, the more calories you burn. However, maintaining a well-oiled metabolism is essential for more reasons than just weight loss.

Your metabolism is responsible for producing the energy needed for cellular activity, using it, and storing it for future use. All of this is to say that metabolic processes help you heat, move, and fuel your body. Those are pretty important feats!

Sense of Community

Group activities like team sports create an important sense of community. Participating in them helps build relationships with like-minded individuals as you work towards a common goal. Even if sports aren’t your thing, rowing, dancing, or workout classes are other fun and fantastic options to get you moving with some friends.

If you’re prone to quitting early when the exercise gets tough, communal workouts are a great way to counteract that. Having others around you can help you push through and stay motivated. Not to mention that exercising with a group keeps you accountable, so you consistently show up - even on the days when you’d rather be curled up in bed.

Final Thoughts

A good exercise routine incorporates full-body movement, mobility work, and a moderate to vigorous heart rate. Hockey is a high-intensity sport that relies on the upper-body, lower-body, core strength, endurance, and motion range. All of these factors make hockey a great form of exercise. Also, focusing on plyometrics, flexibility, and reflex training off the ice can increase your game-time performance.

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