Get Inspired: How to get into Table Tennis

George Clooney, Wayne Rooney and Bill Gates are all devotees of table tennis, a sport enjoying such a boom that Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon has even opened a ping-pong New York nightclub.

The sport's appeal is obvious: it's fast, fun and cheap.

At elite level, it's really fast. The ball travels at speeds of 100mph and is struck more than 180 times in a minute - about three shots a second.

The Chinese dominate the global game and a proliferation of China-born players representing other countries has raised the standard.

Why is it good for you?

Egyptian table tennis fanatic Ibrahim Hamato lost both arms in an accident when he was 10, but he carried on playing by improvising with his mouth. "I hope this shows people that nothing is impossible as long as you work hard," he says.

As table tennis is incredibly fast, an hour's play can burn approximately 272 calories. Due to its intensity, table tennis improves cardiovascular fitness, endurance levels and the health of an athlete's heart.

One of the main benefits of playing table tennis is that it is non-contact. This means you can get all the positives of a high-energy sport such as football without the risk of collision injuries to the arms, shoulders and legs.

It is also one of the few competitive sports that requires players to move at speed without straining the muscles or joints through stretching or using heavy equipment.

For people returning from injury or the elderly, table tennis tennis can be the perfect sport to sustain fitness levels.

The action of having to hit a fast-moving ball with a bat several times a second means table tennis also improves reflexes, eye-to-hand coordination, mental alertness and speed of movement.

Get involved

Table tennis is a cheap and accessible sport played by 2.4m people in the United Kingdom. For people of all ages and abilities, table tennis clubs provide the best place to learn and play the sport.

There are currently more than 750 clubs in gyms, leisure centres, schools, colleges and universities throughout the UK. To find your nearest club, visit Table Tennis England,   Irish Table Tennis,   Table Tennis Association of Wales  or Table Tennis Scotland  websites.

Table tennis equipment, such as bats and ping-pong balls, can be relatively inexpensive to buy, with some leisure centres and clubs also offering a rental service.

Hourly rates for hiring a court often begin at approximately £5 per session, although membership deals can create a lower cost per game.

In England, Ping!  is an innovative three-year street ping-pong project which provides people with opportunities to play social and competitive table tennis, free of charge.

Permanent outdoor free-to-use tables  have been installed in parks in places such as London, Birmingham, Bristol and Hull.

History

In the late 19th Century table tennis was a sedate after-dinner pastime among the high society in England and British army officers abroad, with cigar-box lids used as rackets and a carved champagne cork for a ball.

Early names for the sport included gossima, whiff-whaff and ping pong.

The first World Championships were held in London in 1926, but it did not become an Olympic sport until 1988 in Seoul.

It is estimated there are 40 million competitive table tennis players and countless millions playing recreationally, making it the sport with the most participants worldwide.

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try Table Tennis? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the game by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.