10 different sports and activities to try

Now lockdown restrictions have relaxed, you might be keen to make the most of time spent outside your home. After months of being cooped up indoors, many of us are interested in trying new things, and want to give our bodies a healthy new challenge. No matter what your fitness level or experience, there are plenty of sports and activities out there that are as fun as they are beneficial. Here are 10 ideas for different sports and activities to get you started.

1. Badminton

If you want to try a sport with a friend or family member, badminton might be for you. Not only is it a lot of fun, it’s also good for your heart, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, improves flexibility and muscle tone, and reduces risk of diabetes. To be a good badminton player you need to be pretty quick on your feet, have a strong sense of strategy, and a smooth technique – but like any skill, much of these can be picked up along the way. If you’re serious about learning, you might want to look into some socially distanced one-on-one coaching from an instructor once gyms and leisure centres reopen over the next few weeks.  In the meantime, you and a friend could book some time at your local badminton court and enjoy getting to grips with the sport at your own pace. You can find nearby courts, coaches and classes here.

These days you’ll need your own racket to play, so it’s helpful to do a bit of research before you buy one. Getting the right grip is essential: small hands need small grips, large hands need large grips. The right size racket should feel comfortable in your hand. Your grip can affect your wrist action, and a poor grip could result in stiffer wrist movements, meaning that  you won’t be able to perfect your forehand and backhand shots. The right shuttlecock makes a difference too – if it wobbles around during flight, it’s probably poor quality. Amazon has a decent range of affordable badminton equipment available or for more specialist advice you can head to your nearest local sports shop – just remember to wear a face mask.

To learn more about the correct technique, and see if you might be interested in getting started, have a watch of the video below.

2. Rock climbing

If you’re looking for a full-body workout that’s as beneficial for your mind as it is your body, look no further than rock climbing. Climbing, or bouldering, strengthens your hands, arms, shoulders, neck, back, abs, glutes, thighs and calves – plus it improves flexibility, reduces stress, and tests your problem solving abilities and endurance. Figuring out where to grab next when you’re hanging from a wall is a whole new type of challenge, and many climbers compare climbing to a very physical game of chess, where you’re always thinking about your next move.

Of course, as thrilling as it is, climbing is also safe, provided you know what you’re doing and have qualified supervision. Most people learn to climb at indoor climbing centres, where there are always expert instructors on hand to show you the ropes (quite literally). Most centres provide all the accessories and equipment you need – although you might need to buy yourself a decent pair of climbing shoes. It’s worth visiting your local sports or fitness shop to purchase these, so that you can get some advice on how to choose the right shoe for you. Climbing shoes are different from normal trainers because they are adapted to help you grip onto rocks and stand on small foot holds.

You can find your nearest indoor climbing centre here – and to get more of an idea of what to expect from indoor climbing, have a watch of the video below.

3. Martial Arts

Learning a martial art is something you might not have considered, but if you give it a go, you might be surprised. You don’t have to be “tough” to practice martial arts – you just need to be patient, dedicated and enthusiastic. Aside from the physical benefits, like improved strength and agility, learning a martial art can also boost your confidence, improve focus and stillness, and instil important morals and values. Many martial arts have a strong focus on mental wellbeing and are deeply linked to eastern culture and history, and there’s lots of emphasis on mutual respect. Because there are many different forms of martial arts, it can be tricky deciding which one to try, especially if you’re totally new to these sports.

If you want a gruelling, physical workout, kickboxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) will certainly be a challenge. Karate and taekwondo focus just as much on self-discipline and self-control as fitness and strength. Ju-jitsu can be a tough, close-contact combat sport, with a focus on self defence. Judo is one of the most accessible martial arts (Judo means ‘gentle way’ in Japanese) and can be taken up by people of all different physical abilities.

If you’re still unsure which martial art you want to try, then it’s worth having a watch of this YouTube video, which will talk you through how to choose the right martial art for you. You can also find out more by contacting your local martial arts schools or enquiring at your local gym or leisure centre.

Whilst many classes may not be running as normal due to social distancing rules, there’s nothing to stop you enquiring about classes and even getting started with some training for when things return to normal.

4. Walking football

Walking football is exactly what it sounds like – a walking version of the beautiful game. Created specifically to get people back into football if they’ve stopped playing due to age or injury, walking football has become increasingly popular with both men and women in recent years. The rules are simple: there’s no running, no contact between players, and there are kick-ins instead of throw-ins. Because it provides minimum stress on the body, walking football is a great way to keep fit without worrying about getting injured, and everyone is able to play at their own pace.

Walking football teams are either five-a-side or six-a side, and generally this is a very sociable game – though that doesn’t mean it can’t get competitive! If you want to find your nearest walking football club and give it a go, check out the Walking Football website. Known for being a very inclusive sport, there’s a walking football session for everyone, however you want to play. To get inspired, have a watch of this walking football match between England and Italy!

5. Yoga

Although it’s been practiced in India for around 5,000 years, it’s only in the last few decades that yoga has really exploded in popularity in the west. The benefits of yoga are extremely powerful. It’s especially good for increasing strength and flexibility, but it’s also considered one of the most beneficial activities for the brain. Yoga is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, boost focus and increase energy. Plus, the other great thing about it is that absolutely anyone can do it. It’s gentle and low-impact, but can also be seriously challenging, if you want it to be. You can find your nearest yoga classes here or ask at your local gym or leisure centre – but with many different types of yoga, which should you try?

Hatha and Iyenger yoga are popular with beginners, as they involve a gentler form of stretching, though you’ll still learn all the basic yoga poses. Restorative yoga is great if you’re recovering from illness, injury or trauma, and adaptive yoga is popular with people who have limited mobility or are in wheelchairs. If you’re already pretty flexible, or you want more of a challenge, you might want to try Bikram yoga or Vinyasa yoga. Bikram yoga – also called hot yoga – involves doing yoga in a room that’s heated to around 40 degrees, which is said to help remove toxins from your body. It’s certainly an interesting way to work up a sweat! You can read more in our introductory guide to yoga here, or try having a go at the below yoga workout for beginners from the comfort of your own home.

6. Kayaking

If you love getting out on the water, you might want to consider giving kayaking a go. It’s great exercise and works your upper body, legs and core – but it’s also low-impact and suitable for all abilities. Paddling gently across the water, with the sun overhead and a gentle breeze on your face, is also an especially lovely way to spend a summer’s day – and because it can help you feel present and connected to nature, kayaking also helps improve mental health and alleviate stress and anxiety. It’s up to you how vigorously you want to kayak, but if you’re hoping to improve your fitness as well as have a good time, working those oars will make a big difference.

If you’ve never kayaked before, you might want to take a socially distanced lesson at your local kayaking centre – you can find your nearest one here. Alternatively, you can go solo, and hire some kayaking equipment and go out by yourself for some peace and solitude – just be sure to wear sunscreen and a lifejacket at all times! You’re allowed to kayak independently on lakes, but if you want to paddle down rivers and canals, you will need a kayaking licence. If you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, you might even want to think about trying white water kayaking! You can check out some of the loveliest kayaking routes in the UK here to get inspired.

7. Running

Running is one of the most accessible sports in the world – the only thing you really need to get going is a pair of running shoes. Aside from its obvious health benefits, one of the great things about running is that you can do it any way you like – any pace, anywhere, any time, any length. You might not see yourself as a runner yet, but if you give it a try you’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you improve. Plus, no matter how slowly you run, you’ll still be building endurance, burning fat and improving your health.

If you haven’t done much running before, it’s best to start off gently. You could try the NHS Couch to 5K programme, which will help you run five kilometres after nine weeks of slowly building up your ability. If running comes naturally to you, you may want to set yourself bigger targets – a 10km run perhaps, a half-marathon, or even a full marathon. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to train and build your ability up gradually. Slow and steady really does win the race in this instance and it’s important not to set yourself back through an early injury by trying to do too much too soon. While you don’t need lots of accessories or gadgets to run, it’s important to make sure you’re wearing the right shoe. You can read more about this in our beginner’s guide to running. You might also want to consider  downloading apps like Nike Run Club or Strava, which use GPS to track your runs, allowing you to keep tabs on your progress and see how you improve.

8. Tennis

If racket sports appeal to you but you’re not sure about badminton, you might want to give tennis a try. Tennis has serious health benefits. It increases your aerobic capacities, lowers resting heart rate and blood pressure, improves metabolism, increases bone density and improves muscle tone, strength and flexibility. For those nervous about engaging in indoor activity due to the coronavirus, it’s also a racket sport that can be played outside – which is great for the summer months,

You don’t need much fancy gear to play tennis – you just need a racket and some balls, which you can find for a good price on Amazon or for more specialist advice you can head to your nearest local sports shop.

If you’ve never really played tennis before, you might want to try by yourself before you play against another person. All you need to do is find a wall and practice hitting the ball at it. It’s one of the best ways to learn how to control your body, get a feel for the ball and how the racket feels in your hands. It’s a great way to learn the four different tennis strokes: serve, volley, forehand and backhand. If you want to play against a friend or a family member, you can find your nearest tennis court here – and if you want to get some socially distanced one-on-one lessons, have a look at the LTA site, the Governing Body for tennis in Great Britain.

9. Dancing

Some people are lucky enough to be born with natural rhythm… while others are a little rustier on their feet. However, the great thing about dancing is that you don’t have to be good at it to reap the benefits and have a fun time while doing so. Dancing improves your physical health and fitness, alleviates stress and boosts confidence. It also keeps your mind sharp and improves balance and coordination.  Going to a (socially distanced) group dancing class, could also be a great way to widen your social circle. Plus, whatever type of music you’re into, there’s a dance style out there for everyone.

You can choose from ballroom to latin, tapdance, salsa, ballet, hip hop, line dancing, tango, step dancing, breakdancing, belly dancing… Whatever your experience, ability or mobility, there’s a dance to suit you – and if you want to be inspired, check out Para Dance Sport, where athletes with a physical disability affecting their lower limbs prove dance is something everyone can enjoy. You don’t have to go to classes to learn how to dance. There are thousands of tutorials and videos available online, and Learn To Dance and Steezy have hundreds of free dance videos that give you step by step instruction. To find dance classes near you, just enter your postcode on either the Dance Near You site or the One Dance UK site – or ask in your local leisure centre or gym.

10. Cycling

Cycling is a low impact exercise that uses all the major muscle groups, so you’ll always be getting a great workout, no matter how far you ride. Just like running, cycling can be adapted to your own preferences and ability: if you want a challenge, you could give mountain biking a go, and push yourself by tearing up and down steep mountain roads. At the same time, if you want to take it slow, you can get a road bike and enjoy gentle cruises around town. If you want a bit of a boost while you’re cycling, you can even get a power-assisted bike, or an e-bike, which has a small electric motor to make it that bit easier.

It’s important to get the right bike and make sure it fits you. We’d recommend popping along to your local bike shop and asking staff for some assistance – they can help you choose the right helmet, lights, reflectors and other cycling gear, too. Bike shops are also great places to meet other cyclists and find out about local cycle routes and bike clubs. If you want to learn more about cycling, choosing the right bike and how to stay safe on the roads, have a read of our beginner’s guide to cycling.

Final thoughts…

As beneficial as we know sport is for our minds as well as our bodies, it’s fair to say that not all of us enjoy it. But the wonderful thing about sport is that there really is something out there for everyone – no matter your fitness, mobility or strength level. From gentle stretching that helps quieten the mind to lively dance and energetic badminton, we hope you find a sport to inspire you here – and if you want more ideas, you might want to check out our article on 10 creative ways to get fit. Whatever sport you decide to try, remember to be kind to yourself and go at your own pace. No matter how you perform, trying out a new activity is always something to feel proud of.

Have you tried out any new sports or activities recently? We’d love to hear your stories. Send us an email at [email protected] or leave a comment below.

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