As winter is now a fading memory, warmer weather and lighter days are starting to become more common. Many people will take this as an opportunity to get outside more often and enjoy the improving weather. Spring is a time to start thinking about improving your levels of personal fitness, and it can be the perfect season to start a new sport or exercise plan.
If you have decided that you want to improve your general fitness, the first action that is needed is to choose a suitable sport to take part in. There is a wide range of team sports and individual sporting pursuits that offer distinct health benefits. Some sports focus on building endurance, which can be ideal for improving your cardiovascular health. Others may have more emphasis on building quick reactions, dexterity, and strength, and these can be ideal forms of exercise to build muscle mass, speed, and improved reflexes.
In this article, four unique types of sports will be explored. They offer a range of health benefits, and at least one of these sports may inspire you to start getting fit and reaching your fitness goals.
Indoor hockey is a fairly popular sport in parts of the UK, where an estimated 100,000 people take part in the sport on a regular basis. While it may not be as popular as other sports, such as football, it does offer broadly similar health benefits. As with football, there is a need for all players to run up and down the pitch as a unit while switching between attacking and defensive formations.
This is an excellent form of exercise for building cardiovascular strength and high levels of endurance-based fitness. A hockey player can expect to cover several kilometers of pitch running during a typical match and will also need to build upper body strength and dexterity to effectively use the indoor hockey sticks that a team will need to guide the ball from player to player. There is considerable skill required in moving the hockey stick, as a range of movements is needed. Quick, deft touches are needed to block shots or intercept passes, and arm strength is important when taking shots from a distance. In short, indoor hockey offers the player endurance and upper body strength benefits and is an ideal sport to gain an all-round level of fitness.
Football (or soccer as it is known in America) has been played for hundreds of years and was invented by the British. It is recognized as being the most popular team sport in the UK, and in recent years it has achieved true global popularity, as the recent World Cup can testify. Today some of the top teams have fans in excess of 50,000 at their matches, and the sport enjoys a global audience of millions.
The beauty of football is that it can be enjoyed by people with a wide range of fitness levels. At the top level, it is imperative to be a world-class athlete, as players will run almost constantly for the full ninety-minute duration of the match. However, football teams in many countries enjoy the sport at a lower level of competition, and amateur sides will not have the same level of athletic requirements. Sunday league football can be an ideal way to get into the sport for players with a reasonable level of fitness. In addition, smaller team versions of football (such as five-a-side football) can be the ideal variant for players who wish to enjoy the sport but do not have a full team of eleven players at their disposal.
As with hockey, the sport emphasizes endurance training due to the constant running up and down the pitch. However, there is more emphasis on strength rather than speed for defenders and technical skills for creative midfielders who specialize in making pin point passes or beating players with their dribbling skills. In addition, the role of the goalkeeper has a focus on quick reactions. Training in this position will have an emphasis on rapid movement and decision-making to allow saves to be made when a shot is taken.
Boxing is a perfect example of an individual sport that allows participants to gain comprehensive levels of fitness. Endurance, strength, reflexes, and speed are vital attributes of a proficient boxer. For three minutes, they will need to outwit their opponent with a mix of defensive and offensive body movements while looking for an opportunity to land a powerful punch that will put them ahead on points or win the match by knockout.
Whilst boxing is a great way to develop strength, dexterity, and endurance, it is also a sport that comes with a significant risk of injury. Head injuries are common in boxers who have fought many bouts, and a typical career can last less than a decade for some professionals. However, boxing can be enjoyed safely by amateurs who are looking to develop strength and endurance without being at risk of serious injury. Some gyms will allow participants to train key boxing skills and undertake circuit and weight training without actually competing. This can be ideal if you wish to get incredibly fit without risking physical damage. In addition, if you do wish to compete at an amateur level, it is likely that the boxing gym will ensure that you wear head safety gear which reduces the impact of landed punches.
As a final example, swimming is a sport that can truly be enjoyed by participants of all ages and fitness levels. It is different from the previously mentioned sports as it is a low-impact form of exercise that does not place bones and joints under significant pressure or force. However, becoming proficient as a swimmer is an excellent form of exercise that will allow you to reach your fitness goals. Swimming provides a full-body workout and helps to develop key muscle groups in the arms, shoulders, and legs. Different swimming strokes (such as the butterfly or crawl) target different muscles, and by learning all the key strokes, you will be able to build total body fitness. The natural resistance of the water helps to build strength, and as you develop speed and distance in your swimming, you will benefit from improved levels of endurance.