Choosing a Sport Over the Gym for Fitness

It’s a question on everyone’s lips. Is there one sport that’s better than all the rest for all-round fitness?

Well, maybe: there are a number of sports that are said to be better than the rest for all-round fitness. Top among these sports is swimming – which is often said to make the ideal combination of strength, stamina and suppleness.

But other sports such as tennis also offer an excellent all-round combination, whilst football, basketball and squash are particularly good for aerobic fitness, as are aerobics classes and other similar forms of “class” exercises such as spinning, Zumba, boxercise and others. Cycling is also very good for calorie-burning without putting too much pressure on the joints – whilst gentler forms of exercise like yoga are excellent for suppleness and, arguably, better for your very soul due to their calming effect.

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It’s not a question of ranking sports. It’s rather all about finding the sport or exercise that feels right for you – and which you’re going to keep up because you like it. Enjoyment is the key to continuation. Taking an interest in a sport can also help. So even if football bores you witless, taking a look at the odds for a big game and having half a dollar on the outcome will probably make you watch it, and that’s what we want here. Because, when you watch a sport, it makes you want to play it – and playing that sport for fun is the ultimate aim. This, in turn, is because we tend to continue what we like doing. Exercise is best when it’s incidental to doing something you enjoy rather than being the end in itself.

So when it comes to exercise which has no particular game to it, it may be harder to keep up. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. It’s horses for courses: some people love swimming, running or cycling for its own sake – so if that’s what you love then go for it. But for other people, it’s all about playing the game, or perhaps dancing to the music in an aerobics or dance class for that matter.
Perhaps it clarifies things to think what we’re trying to avoid here – and that’s the word “chore”. If your chosen form of exercise following a new year’s resolution, for example, is something you slightly dread – then you’re unlikely to be able to keep it up.

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But it isn’t quite that simple. Sometimes, we don’t really feel like pursuing our chosen sport on any given day, but do it anyway then feel elated after the exercise due to a combination of having faced something we didn’t want to and the positive endorphin “rush” that we humans experience post-exercise.

So this is an important point. If you feel elated after the activity and find yourself quite looking forward to the next visit as soon as you’ve finished, you’re in the right kind of zone. On the other hand, if you don’t get that feeling of elation and you immediately dread the follow-up, then try and find something else as your instinct is telling you you’re on the wrong track – and your instinct is something you can always trust.

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