What Are the Physical and Health Benefits of Playing Chess?

Playing chess is more than just a fun way to pass the time. While the goal of the game is to deliver checkmate, the game of chess is known to offer numerous mental and physical health benefits.

In this article, we’ll talk about the history of playing chess and the game’s numerous physical and mental health benefits.

Let’s get started.

A Brief History of Chess

Here’s a quick look at how the game of chess began.

Origin of the Game

The origin of chess is believed to have originated in countries like Russia, Pakistan, and Central Asia. Yet, the most well-known chessboard is known to date back to India in 600 A. D and was called chaturanga.

Chaturanga is a Sanskrit name based on a war game of two players. It became popular in Europe and Persia and was influenced by Persian traders and the Arabian empire.

Then, it was the Muslims who brought the game back to Spain and Sicily during the 10th century.

However, several years later, specifically in 1254, King Louis banned playing chess in France. Although, it started regaining its popularity soon after, and it’s been known to be a favorite game of the royals ever since then.

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The Chess Piece Design

The design of chess pieces evolved from simple designs to pieces depicting animals, noblemen, and warriors. During the 9th to 12th centuries pieces became more elaborate, and chessboards were made either from clay or a carved piece of stone or marble.

The First American National Championship

In 1857, American chess players were inspired by the tournament and organized the 1st national championship held in New York City. The winner, Paul Morphy who was a chess player from New Orleans was named the “unofficial world champion” in 1858.

In 1886, Wilhelm Steinitz became the world’s first official chess champion. He was able to hold on to the title for over a decade until 1894 when he was defeated by the world’s second chess champion, Emanuel Lasker.

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Start Playing Chess

Now that you know the history of the game, here are the top ten health benefits of playing chess.

5 Physical Benefits of Playing Chess

1. A Therapeutic Game For  Rehabilitation Patients

For patients healing from stroke or brain injuries, chess can be a therapeutic way to help develop motor skills. A stroke patient can improve their motor skills when picking up a chess piece and making a move on the chess board.

Psychologically, patients can improve their well-being by playing this fun game without moving from one place to another. So, by sitting and concentrating on their next move, they can remain calm and less anxious.

2. Lowers the Risk of Injuries

For aging adults, a study shows that participating in playing chess is associated with lower rates of injury.

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Since playing chess increases brain performance and focus, it also helps increase spatial and cognitive awareness. Thus, it reduces the risk of injuring yourself.

3. Lowers the Risk of Chronic Diseases

Playing chess prevents the development and progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia. These chronic diseases destroy brain cells and cause the deterioration of cognitive ability, which ultimately lead to memory loss.

4. Stimulates the Growth of Nerve Cells

The dendrites function as transmitters and receptors of signals to and from the cell body. These neurons when stimulated enough by other nerve cells create an impulse that generates thought and behavior.

A higher count of these dendrites means increased and optimized brain performance. The growth of these neurons, also known as dendrites, is stimulated by playing the game.

5. Helps Burn Calories

Just by sitting down and using the brain cells to concentrate, we burn calories due to our increased heart rate as our blood pressure and breathing rate spike.

Playing chess can burn as many as 6,000 calories in the span of 24 hours.

5 Mental Health Benefits of Playing Chess

1. Improves Cognitive Abilities

Studies show that playing chess enhances cognitive skills. A recent study was done with 170 school children aged 6 to 16 years old, half of whom regularly played chess.

The study found that the school children who regulary played chess were found to score higher in their IQ test results compared to non-players.

2. Enhances Problem-Solving Skills

Playing chess develops problem-solving abilities. It helps them analyze, strategize, and plan to win the match.

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A study in Brunswick, Canada, that ran from 1990 to 1992 looked at the problem-solving test scores of students who have chess integrated into their mathematics curriculum. The study showed that their scores were higher than those of students who didn’t engage in chess games.

3. Improves Coping Ability

Fast but accurate decision-making is a learned skill. It develops the ability to cope under stressful conditions like preparing for an exam.

Hence, playing chess is a highly effective way to increase the coping strategies of children when dealing with related scenarios.

4. Builds Confidence

Playing chess builds confidence and self-esteem. It trains the mind to think and act fast.

Plus, winning the game boosts one’s self-esteem because the result is based on your skill and hard work. Whether you’re a chess player or not, simply analyzing the game is a good way to boost your strategizing skills.

5. Strengthens Memory and Focus

It strengthens memory and prevents Alzheimer disease in adults. Chess is a visual game that requires recalling complex rules and moves to defeat your opponent.

Hence, playing chess develops the ability to memorize classic moves even from previous games and recall an opponent’s playing style and use these memories to win the game.


Playing chess has proven to have various benefits. It’s a therapeutic game for rehabilitation patients. It also lowers the risks of injury and chronic diseases, stimulates neuron growth, and helps burn calories.

As for the mental benefits, chess boosts cognitive functions, enhances problem-solving skills, and builds confidence.

It’s true that chess is a complex game that requires focus and concentration. Yet, the good news is anyone can master playing it through continuous practice and training.

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