Recreational Sports

People participate in recreational sports for various reasons -some individuals are attracted by the opportunities to socialize while exercising; some people are motivated by the challenge of competition; others have current and future health in mind. Whether you choose to pursue a recreational sport at amateur or professional level, there is much to be gained, in terms of general health, fitness and wellbeing.

Popular recreational sports include racket sports, combat sports, athletics, water sports, winter sports, acrobatic sports and outdoor sports. Special skill or knowledge is needed to participate in these sports and in many cases formal training is essential. Some sports may be prohibited by age, health or fitness limitations; for example, some sports are not suitable for children or for elderly people, and an endurance sport such as a triathlon is only suitable for people at the peak of cardiovascular health.

For some people, the main goal in participating in recreational sports is to excel in their chosen event. Many take regular exercise in order to maximize their overall physical fitness, as well as undergoing intensive training specific to the particular game or activity they enjoy. They revel in all the stimulus of competition (whether at an amateur, club or professional level) – the honing of skills to beat opponents, dedication, determination, concentration and the thrill of winning. All of these aspects of both amateur and professional competition are also enjoyed vicariously by the millions of people worldwide who watch competitive sporting events.

RACKET SPORTS

This group of activities includes badminton, squash and table tennis, which are usually played on indoor courts, and tennis, which can be played indoors or outdoors.

Badminton

A fast, skilful racket and shuttlecock game, badminton is played by two people or two pairs on indoor courts and scored in games and sets.

Age: teens to middle age.

Benefits: improves hand/eye coordination, speed, power, agility, reflexes, balance, tactical thinking, strength in the legs and racket arm; also promotes bone-building.

Risks: players may be injured by an opponent; other injuries can be caused by sudden twists and lunges.

Squash

An explosive, fast-paced racket and ball game scored in games and sets, squash is played by two people or two pairs on an indoor court.

Age: youth to middle age.

Benefits: improves hand/eye coordination, balance, precision, speed, power, rapid reflexes, tactical thinking, strength in the legs and racket arm; promotes bone-building.

Risks: the ball may cause injuries as it bounces off the walls, and shoulder injuries can result from sudden twists and lunges.

Table tennis

A rapid bat and ball game scored in games and sets, table tennis is played by two people or two pairs on a table, usually indoors.

Age: childhood to old age.

Benefits: improves hand/eye coordination, speed, agility, rapid reflexes, precision and tactical thinking.

Risks: injuries can result from sudden twists and lunges.

Tennis

A racket and ball game played by two people or two pairs on a grass, hard or indoor court; tennis is scored in games and sets.

Age: childhood to old age; champions peak aged 20-30.

Benefits: improves hand/eye coordination, balance, precision, speed, power, reflexes, strength in the legs and racket arm and tactical thinking; also bone-building.

Risks: accidental injuries can occur; shoulder injuries may result from sudden twists and lunges.

ATHLETICS

The term ‘athletics’ covers a wide range of activities divided into track and field events. These activities are often part of the sports programme at schools and universities.

Track events

Sprinting, middle-distance, long-distance and marathon running, relay races and hurdling are all track events. They are scored by time, and ability is strongly influenced by body shape – sprinters tend to have muscular bodies and long-distance runners tend to be lean.

Age: youth to middle age; champions peak aged 25-35; participants over the age of 40 are classed as veterans.

Benefits: sprinting and middle-distance running promote explosive body power; middle- and long-distance running and marathon running improve aerobic fitness, stamina and fat-burning; all promote leg strength and bone-building.

Risks: sprinters and middle-distance runners may suffer hamstring and Achilles tendon problems; spike and collision injuries can occur on the track. Long-distance runners may suffer dehydration, and the repetitive strain of running marathons can lead to shinsplints and knee problems. The extreme loss of fat in female marathon runners may cause amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation) – a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Field events

The field events category includes the high jump, the long jump and the triple jump; pole vaulting; and throwing the shot put, javelin, discus and hammer. They are all scored by measurement. Ability is strongly influenced by body shape – jumpers tend to be tall and thin and throwers tend to be stocky and muscular.

Age: childhood to middle age; champions peak aged 20-35.

Benefits: promotes explosive body power, precision, timing, elevation, coordination and some bone-building.

Risks: participants may suffer back, joint, limb and soft tissue injuries from poor landing after a jump or from the twisting movements of a throw.

WATER SPORTS

Sports such as canoeing, kayaking and swimming allow the individual to exercise without putting impact on the joints. For this reason, swimming is particularly useful as part of a cross training approach to exercise.

Canoeing and kayaking

A single or double canoe or kayak can be paddled on still water or rough water. The ability to swim is essential.

Age: childhood to late middle age.

Benefits: improves upper body strength, coordination, balance, precision and tactical thinking; distance work brings some aerobic benefits.

Risks: possible risks include death by drowning, accidental injuries, and back and shoulder problems.

Competitive swimming

Swimmers may participate in tough sprint, middle-distance and lone-distance races in different strokes, medleys (mixed strokes) and relays; these are scored by time.

Age: childhood to middle age.

Benefits: improves aerobic fitness, all-over strength (especially upper body, fore-arms and hands), speed and power.

Risks: shoulder injuries; upper respiratory tract and intestinal infections; skin infections, including verrucas, athlete’s foot and ringworm; and eye and skin reactions to chlorine in the water.

Sailing

Various sized vessels are powered by sails and crewed by one or more individuals on the sea or on inland lakes, rivers and reservoirs. The ability to swim, life-saving skills and knowledge about wave and wind power, tides and currents are essential.

Age: childhood to old age.

Benefits: improves upper body strength, coordination, balance and tactical thinking.

Risks: possible risks include death by drowning, accidental injuries, and back and shoulder problems.

WINTER SPORTS

Individuals living in mountainous areas can enjoy a range of winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding. In other areas, dry ski slopes can provide an opportunity for more restricted skiing, and are useful when preparing for a winter sports holiday.

Skiing

Options for skiers include daredevil downhill (speed) and tough cross-country (distance) skiing, both scored by speed in competition.

Age: early childhood to old age.

Benefits: improves aerobic fitness, leg strength, balance, coordination, agility, precision, speed and power. Both types of skiing are fat-burning and cross-country skiing is bone-building.

Risks: accidental injuries, particularly torn ligaments and broken limb bones and joints, are most likely to occur in beginners or skiers on unknown or overly difficult slopes. There are also potential dangers from serious natural hazards, such as avalanches and bad weather; snow-blindness and sunburn can also occur.

Snowboarding

An exhilarating snow sport, snow-boarding consists of downhill racing and aerial moves on a short, broad single ski.

Age: youth to middle age.

Benefits: improves lower body strength, agility, coordination and flexibility.

Risks: accidental injuries, torn ligaments and broken limbs can occur.

ACROBATIC SPORTS

Recreational acrobatic sports include gymnastics and trampolining. These sports are usually practised indoors, and are most likely to be enjoyed by young people.

Gymnastics

Gymnastic disciplines include the double rings, high bars and horse for men and double bars, beam and vault for women; both men and women perform floor work. They are scored by technical merit, and ability is strongly influenced by well-proportioned body shape. For anyone who does not enjoy working on elevated apparatus, rhythmic gymnastics, although not strictly an acrobatic sport, is closely related to gymnastics. Physical exercises are per-formed on a floor area, with the aid of handheld apparatus such as ropes, ribbons, balls, hoops and clubs.

Age: champions start in childhood; girls peak between their teens and mid-20s; men peak in their 20s and carry on longer.

Benefits: improves balance, strength, flexibility, speed, explosive body power, elevation, body awareness, posture, coordination, precision and timing; promotes bone-building.

Risks: possible risks include injuries from falling off equipment and long-term back and joint damage. The emphasis on thinness in girls and over-training can lead to a delayed onset of menstruation or amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation), which is a risk factor for osteoporosis in later life.

Trampolining

In trampolining, gymnastic skills are performed while airborne using a large, bouncy mat suspended from a metal frame by elastic. It is scored in competition by technical merit.

Age: childhood to middle age.

Benefits: improves leg strength, balance, coordination, agility, flexibility, timing, body awareness, precision and elevation; it promotes bone-building but does not stress the joints.

Risks: a poor landing or falling off the trampoline can result in minor or serious accidental injury to any part of the body, especially the limbs and spine.

OUTDOOR SPORTS

The wide range of outdoor sports includes climbing, endurance events such as cycling and triathlon, more leisurely pursuits such as golf, and traditional outdoor activities involving horsemanship.

Some of these activities, such as show-jumping, also take place in indoor arenas in certain circumstances.

Climbing

Climbers can enjoy highly challenging rock, cliff, glacier or mountain climbing, and also indoor climbing on man-made walls.

Age: late teens to middle age.

Benefits: improves all-over strength, agility, coordination, precision, balance, flexibility, rapid reflexes, tactical thinking and resilience; promotes bone-building.

Risks: serious, often fatal, falling accidents can occur; natural hazards include weather changes, altitude sickness, frostbite and snow blindness.

Competitive cycling

The scope of competitive cycling covers sprints, middle distance and very long distance (hundreds of miles over days and weeks). Races are scored by time.

Age: teens to middle age.

Benefits: incredible leg strength, as well as aerobic fitness and balance; middle and long distance events are fat-burning.

Risks: falls can result in injuries, and knee and lower back problems may occur.

Equestrian sports

Showjumping and dressage are equestrian sports that are scored on technical merit and presentation. Others, scored by speed, include racing, hacking and cross-country.

Age: childhood to middle age (hacking can be continued into old age).

Benefits: physical benefits include improved abdominal and thigh strength, bal-ance, agility and coordination and some aerobic benefits.

Risks: serious, potentially fatal accidents can occur if a rider falls or is thrown and is rolled or trampled on by the horse; lower back problems can also occur.

Golf

A club and ball game played by two or more people on landscaped parkland course, golf is scored by points.

Age: teens to old age.

Benefits: promotes bone-building and some aerobic fitness from extensive walking between holes; also promotes hand/eye co-ordination, power and precision.

Risks: possible risks include ball injury and back injuries caused by twisting the whole body while driving the ball.

Triathlon and other endurance events Triple marathon events and long-distance cycling, swimming and running are often combined in endurance events.

Age: 20s to early old age.

Benefits: promotes incredible aerobic and muscular endurance and mental toughness; also fat-burning and bone-building.

Risks: over-use injuries, such as shin-splints, knee, ankle, shoulder and lower back problems can occur.