Participation sports for over 50s are a great way of getting fit and meeting people.
For many, the thirties and forties mark the beginnings of a steady decline in fitness. Lifestyles can become sedentary and its all too easy to lapse into excessive or comfort eating.
We all know that that lifestyle is not good for our long term health and quality of life. The obvious ones being increases in weight, and we get ‘out of puff’ too quickly doing the simplest of physical tasks.
Trying to do something about it though takes a lot of effort, and sometimes depending on what shape we’re in, some courage to make that first attempt.
January sees masses of people resolving to get fit. The usual route to getting fit is to buy a gym membership. But anyone who is currently a gym member will know that January is usually the month when all the new year’s resolution folk join….and that by March they have more or less quit.
It’s a staggering figure, but we waste £558 million each year on unused gym memberships, with a full 11% saying they hadn’t been in a year.
For some though, gym work is simply just not for them. Unless you have a gym buddy to encourage you to actually turn up and work, it can be quite a lonely, isolated activity. And doing the same exercises each time also can be boring.
If you’re unlucky to get a poor gym instructor, you will do repetitive exercises week in, week out. No wonder people quit!
And there can be other issues in joining a gym. For those who aren’t in great shape, it can be daunting turning up to a gym populated by the local equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jessica Ennis-Hill!
What other activities are out there for the fitness virgin?
There are the usual suspects available in any gym – some form of aerobic session, pilates, and yoga can be good fun, sociable and still bring a degree of fitness. However, although there is social element to these activities, none of them have that team-like feel to them.
Want to participate in a team sport but football would finish those wobbly knees off for good? Try walking football.
Walking football originated in 2011 and has increased in popularity over recent years, and now boasts its own league. It has similar rules to the standard football, except as it says in the title, the game is played at walking pace, the ball cannot be kicked higher than 1.83 metres and each match is more time limited.
The sport is governed by the Walking Football Association. If you are interested in finding out more then here is the link: https://thewfa.co.uk
It is open to both men’s and women’s teams. More information can also be found here:
If you like your team sport to be a little more physical then consider the newly emerging sport of walking rugby.
This sport actually had its roots in the hotel chain Warner Village Hotels, where matches were arranged as part of the leisure activities on offer.
Again, the concept of walking rugby is to bring the thrill and competitiveness of the original team sport, while protecting the players from risk of injury, and recognising physical restrictions that age inevitably brings.
Want to participate in outside sport alongside others, but ball sports not for you? Try park running.
Whilst not specifically aimed at over 50s, organised park runs have become hugely popular. The basic concept is a run around a local park is set up and an open invitation is made for anyone to turn up and..well, just run.
The good thing about park runs is that they do attract a wide variety of abilities, from young semi professional runners, through to the complete running – or even walking – newbie. If you get the running bug and get competitive, there is even a way to grade your performance based on your age. (So you can figure out what pace your younger self would have achieved!).
Here’s information about park Run UK – http://www.parkrun.org.uk
Back indoors, for inspiration there are the court based sports – tennis and badminton for example. These are great activities and are even tor those who still have a competitive spirit.
Of course, whatever you decide to do, the usual health rules apply:
first of all if you’re starting from new then always make sure you are healthy enough to participate in physical exercise. See your GP for reassurance if in any doubt.
Start any new activity slowly – no-one is expecting you to be an instant Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins, Paula Radcliffe or any other star performers. Instant heroes are more likely to injure themselves very quickly and usually painfully. Listen very carefully to the feedback your body is giving you before asking more of it. Give yourself time and feel your way into the activity. Soon enough you’ll be able to work harder as your body becomes more able to handle the stress it’s being put under.
Whilst it’s great for anyone to have a go at keeping fit, there is in truth not a great deal of point to it if each time on the way back home you drop into McDonalds (other fast food restaurants are available) or have a cigarette afterwards. Healthy eating and caring for your body are absolutely key to maximising the long term benefits.
And of course it’s important to understand just why on earth we want to put ourselves through all of this. Yes, hopefully there is the sheer enjoyment of taking part in your chosen activity, but the real benefit is to your long term quality of life.
It’s one thing living longer, but that is no help whatsoever if the QUALITY of our life later on is so poor we are unable to enjoy it. Protecting ourselves from illnesses which typically affect us as we age is so important and should be a serious objective.
Fitness and healthy nutrition are, at the fundamental level, about ensuring that, however long we live, we have as many active and usable years ahead of us as possible.
So really, health and fitness should be thought of as long term investments from which we will reap many more active years long into the future.
Get out there and have fun!