Exercise is beneficial for the mind, body and spirit. Physical activity reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It also boosts confidence, lifts your spirits and helps your brain cope better with stress.
Yet so many of us would rather slump in front of the TV than get up, get out and get moving. Watching the Superbowl seems the closest some people will get to any action.
For those people who are conscious about their health and do exercise, the focus is very much on “working out” rather than playing a sport. Jogging before work, lifting weights at the gym or taking part in weekly exercise classes are all tried and tested ways of keeping active.
However, playing sports is the old fashioned way of keeping fit that few of us ever consider.
When we were kids we played sports and that kept us healthy. Running round the soccer field, shooting a few hoops or trying out for the track team were motivation enough to get our hearts pumping.
So why do so many of us grow out of playing sports, and opt, instead, for more structured ways of exercising? “Working out” has become an activity in its own right – it’s knocked all the fun out of getting fit with its personal goals and targets to pump more iron or run a faster mile.
In a Vanity Fair poll published in January 2014, the athletic goal most women said they wanted to achieve (28 per cent) was to get through an hour-long step aerobics class.
One of the top sporting ambitions for men was to complete a 3K run (20 per cent).
Where’s the fun in that?
Playing a sport incorporates all the fitness benefits associated with getting plenty of exercise with a whole list of added bonuses on top. Boost your social life by making new friends, feel the buzz from trying something new and enjoy the adrenaline rush from the thrill of competition, for example.
And you don’t have to go down the well-travelled path of signing up for a softball league or joining a soccer team.
There’s a a whole host of sports that will capture your imagination and get you excited about playing again.
You don’t even have to commit to a team. Try Taekwondo. Benefits include building strength and instilling discipline as well as helping you achieve self-defense skills. Taekwondo is a particularly active martial art and you can expect to burn around 360 calories during a 90 minute session.
If you’re looking for a graceful form of exercise to help reduce stress, consider tai chi. Though originally developed for self-defense, tai chi helps promote serenity through gentle, flowing movements and is often described as meditation in motion.
Ever thought about fencing? There are loads of local clubs looking for new members. As well as burning around 288 calories an hour, you’ll improve your balance, co-ordination, flexibility and reflexes.
Give badminton a shot. It’s very easy to master and is an intense aerobic work out burning the equivalent of a chocolate bar every half hour. If you join a club you’ll get the additional rush of playing competitively.
Most of all, try something you truly enjoy. We all spend enough time working; make exercise fun.