IT’S the latest good reason for heading to Sunderland’s the Bridges – the chance to show of your sporting prowess with a free game of table tennis.

A Ping Pong Parlour has popped up at Walworth Way West at the centre, as part of an initiative with Table Tennis England, the sport’s national governing body, and Active Sunderland.

The game has an interesting history, from improving health to bridging diplomatic relations, there are a number of surprising facts about the sport – see what you think..

  1. Table tennis is one of the best calorie-burning sports

Depending on how active the game is, players can burn between 200 and 350 calories for every hour spent playing.

  1. It became an Olympic sport in 1988

Table tennis was first included as an Olympic sport at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, with 129 competitors from 41 nations.

  1. It has been called whiff-whaff, flim-flam, pim-pam and punch ball

Various versions of the game were sold under different names, before British manufacturer John Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked Ping Pong in 1901.

  1. London hosted the first official World Championships in 1926

The tournament has been held every two years since 1957 and consists of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s double and mixed doubles.

  1. China dominates the competition

Chinese players have won 395 medals at the World Championships and the country took home all of the gold medals in the sport at the last three Olympic Games.

  1. It originated in England in the 1880s

The game become popular as an after dinner parlour game in the late nineteenth century.

  1. It has helped international relations

In 1971, the American world champion table tennis team was invited to play some friendly matches in China. This was the first contact the two countries made in 22 years and was referred to as Ping Pong Diplomacy.

  1. It was banned in the Soviet Union

The sport was banned from 1930 to 1950 because authorities believed it was harmful to the eyes.

  1. Playing ping pong activates more parts of your brain that any other sport

Research from The American Museum of Natural History shows that ping pong enhances activity in the primary motor cortex, cerebellum and prefrontal cortex – to do with arm and hand movement and strategy.

  1. Doctors recommend table tennis for those suffering from cognitive conditions like dementia

Ping pong has been shown to help with blood flow to the hippocampus, which can hold back the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

For more information about the Bridges, visit www.thebridges-shopping.com.