Wednesday 22 November 2017

Olympic fever – why playing sport is more fun than the gym

Why playing sport is more fun than going to the gym
Why playing sport is more fun than going to the gym

Bess Manson

The lucky ones have got their tickets to an Olympic event or two but cost and availability mean we can't all be there to enjoy the thrill of seeing the world's top sports people converge to compete.

But there are loads of ways to enjoy the Olympics without actually being there.

You could have a street party or head to one of the big screens around your town that are showing live coverage, or have your own mini-Olympic events with your friends and neighbours.

If you can't join in as a spectator, you might also consider becoming a participant - though at a more grassroots level.

Personal trainer and sports massage therapist Emily Whitehead says taking up a sport will do wonders for your physical and mental health.

Getting active helps your wellbeing by releasing endorphins - the body's natural feel-good drug, she says, with the added bonus that participating in a sport is a brilliant way to meet new people.

Here she gives a list so you can be a 'good sport' and explains how each can make us feel and look fabulous.


The annual tournament at Wimbledon is known to trigger a rush to the courts, and this sport can suit all age ranges and fitness levels and is very social.

Tennis helps to lower your body's resting heart rate, increase bone density, reduce blood pressure, improve metabolic function, relieve stress, and reduce body fat.

It's also good for your aerobic fitness, muscle tone and flexibility. Phew, and if that's not enough reason to take up the sport, it's a great way to get a tan, as well as creating an outlet for your ruthless competitive side.

And you just can't help but lose a bit of weight. Playing singles for one hour burns approximately 600 calories in men and 420 calories in women, making it as effective as lifting weights or a spin class.


This is great for heart and lung function, and can tone the entire body. It's especially good if you have knee problems as it's non-impact.

Try taking a dip in the sea or a lake in the good weather, but always check with outdoor swimming guides and coastguards first to make sure it's safe to do so.

Swimming and enjoying the beauty of nature is fantastic for your general wellbeing.


Getting on your bike is good for the heart. A good peddle will tone your legs and help with your core stability. It's a high-calorie burner exercise, so prepare to drop a few pounds.

Cycling will help your stomach muscles and strengthen the upper body and arms.

Forget the exercise bike at the gym, get outside and explore your local area.


This is another total body workout. There's a huge variety of disciplines in gymnastics and most will help with upper body strength, balance and coordination.

Any gymnastics performed to music is especially good for you as music can be uplifting to your spirits and boost mood.


All that heave-ho-ing is fantastic for stomach muscles. It's another high-calorie burner, so expect to shed some weight, and it's excellent for lung function.

The rowing machine at the gym is one way to get into the sport but you're much better off getting into a club where you can be in the great outdoors, take in some fresh air and meet new people out on the same mission as you.


If you're after a good hit of endorphins, then running is your game. You'll get what they call the 'runner's high' after a trot around the block.

Running is excellent for your leg muscles and a great way to lose weight.

Getting out the door is the hardest part of running, so doing it with others will be a motivator, and if you want to avoid wear and tear on joints, run on grass or a track.

:: To join a club and get inspired, visit


If you want to give your legs a workout, then horse riding will do it. It'll help with your core strength because your whole body has to work to keep you balanced.

Being around animals is therapeutic and can also engender a sense of wellbeing.


This contact sport is great for your strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health.

It's also a surefire way to meet people - there's nothing like wrestling someone to the ground to get to know them!

Importantly, it's a way of building your confidence and ability in self-defence. It's known for instilling a sense of mental toughness and discipline.


There's great camaraderie in team sports. It is social and competitive, not to mention great for toning leg muscles and getting fit.

Learning to control the ball will also improve your motor skills.

Football helps to increase endorphins, which make moods stable and can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Fencing is a great cardiovascular exercise as it's fast paced. It improves coordination, strength and flexibility because of the different positions and movements used throughout the body.

Training for this sport could also reduce stress and be an aid to developing judgment and deduction skills, as you have to anticipate your opponent's moves.

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