Although studies have found that staying physically active as you age helps prevent health problems, control chronic conditions and keep you mentally agile, spending hours on the treadmill can be dull. Sure, some folks like going to the gym. But others are looking for physical activities that allow for more social interaction.
Here are 8 sports that can help you stay fit and add fun to your life. Even if you already have a favorite sport, such as swimming or tennis, trying one of these novel activities can engage your body and your mind in new ways. You can invite a friend to try one of them with you, or you can join a group activity to meet new people.
Pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in the country, is a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton and is played on a court that looks similar to a small tennis court. The game can be played by two or four people and requires less running than tennis, making it easier for those with joint complaints or old injuries.
Pickleball tournaments can attract crowds of spectators and the sport is one of the most popular amenities offered at some active adult communities. The game is particularly enjoyable because its slower pace allows for plenty of time to socialize while staying active.
If you’re looking for a more traditional racket sport, consider badminton. Its flexible pace means that it can be played by folks at all ages and skill levels. You can play against a friend or a team of friends, or you can join a league to meet new people. The equipment used is pretty basic: a net, a racquet and a shuttlecock. And if you’re playing for fun, you don’t even need a net.
3. Disc Golf
Traditional golf has long been associated with retirees and many active adult communities have a golf course. But if you are not a golfer or want to expand your sports repertoire, you can try “disc golf.” Instead of using golf balls and golf clubs, you throw a Frisbee® or “golf disc” from a tee area to a target area.
Like traditional golf, your goal is to land the disc in the target area with the fewest throws. But unlike traditional golf, you don’t need to spend money on golf clubs or greens fees. You just need to find a disc golf course. The game can be played by anyone of any age. It keeps you moving and concentrating, which benefits your body and your mind.
Pitching horseshoes has been popular for centuries, with evidence suggesting that people have been tossing horseshoes since the second century B.C. At the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, horseshoe pitching has been available to every president and visitor since the Eisenhower administration.
Although it might seem simple enough to just toss a horseshoe at a target, there are actually rules regarding throwing distance established by the National Horseshoe Pitching Association. Of course, if you’re just playing for fun, you don’t have to abide by those rules. Horseshoe sets are readily available and inexpensive, so you and your friend can set up your own game quickly.
Bocce, which is somewhat of a cross between billiards and bowling, was first played during the time of the Roman Empire. Players roll or toss balls in order to land them closer to a smaller object than their opponent’s balls. A simple, easy-to-learn game, bocce can be played by individuals or teams. The balls are smaller and lighter than bowling balls and the court is smaller, too, which is why you sometimes find bocce in bars and restaurants, as well as in residential communities.
6. Walking Basketball
A quirky version of basketball that anyone can play, walking basketball was introduced in the UK in 2013. The game is basically what it sounds like: Regular basketball rules apply, but all the participants walk instead of run. The slower pace makes it easier for those who have joint issues in their hips, knees, or ankles and reduces the chance of (further) injury. You can play it on any basketball court. Best of all, even though you’re moving around and throwing and catching the ball, you’ll still have time to chat with your teammates.
Yoga can help develop physical fitness in people with all sorts of conditions, including joint pain. Many practitioners rely on yoga to improve their strength, flexibility, and balance—three key factors of physical health. For example, flexibility can help increase blood flow to your muscles, prevent loss of mobility, and reduce chronic back pain.
Equipment costs are minimal in that you just need a mat (or a patch of grass if the weather is nice). As you become more advance, you might want to supplement with blocks and straps. Moves and positions can be modified to fit the skill levels of participants and many can be practiced without the help of an instructor.
8. Tai Chi
The slow-motion exercise known as Tai Chi, which is based on traditional Chinese martial arts movements, has been in existence since 3000 B.C. Tai Chi is similar to yoga in that the movements are low-impact and focus on building flexibility and muscle strength while lowering stress. There are numerous styles of Tai Chi and programs can be tailored to address specific health concerns, such as easing arthritis symptoms. Novices will need an instructor to show them the movements. Classes can be held indoors or outdoors and focus on constant slow movement and deep breathing.
Whether you want to try something more traditional like badminton or horseshoes or more unusual like disc golf or walking basketball, experimenting with new activities can help you keep your body and mind fit and add fresh faces and fun to your life.
READ MORE: 7 Ways to Stay Motivated to Exercise