Playing sport is a wonderful way to spend time for many reasons – the most obvious one being that it helps us to improve and maintain physical fitness, which is important for our physical health.
But this is not the only way it enhances our quality of life. Taking part in sport can also reduce stress and anxiety, boost our mood, and improve our social lives. Training and playing in a team or as an individual can introduce us to new people, build confidence, improve self-esteem, and prevent us from feeling isolated in the community.
While many of us played sport at school and in our spare time during our childhoods, it is not uncommon for sports to slip away as we move away from home, start college or university, get a job, meet new friends and romantic partners, and start a family of our own. You may not have played a sport since you were young, but that does not mean that you cannot start now. No one is too old to enjoy the benefits of playing sport but deciding which sport to pursue can be intimidating if you are out of practice.
Whether you want to improve your fitness, make new friends, compete against others, have a fun hobby, shake up your exercise routine, or all of the above, this guide will outline how you can get into a new sport in 2021.
Kickstart your fitness
If you are not used to exercising, you might want to join a gym to get your body back into the rhythm of regular exercise. Ease yourself in with a weekly visit or class, and gradually increase it as you feel your stamina improve. When you are feeling more confident and your muscles are twitching back to life, you may feel more adventurous and can start looking into playing a sport.
Of course, if you are already in relatively good shape or you are not keen on the idea of going to the gym, you can jump straight into a sport. If you choose to do this, however, it is often wise to let other players or your opponents know that you are a beginner. There is absolutely no shame in being new to exercise or a particular sport – everybody starts at the beginning.
Try a solo sport
The simplest way to get into a new sport is often to choose a solo activity, i.e., a sport which you can perform alone. You may need to find a class where you can learn, but ultimately you will be exercising alone. There are lots of options, but your choice will come down to several factors, including where you live, the climate, the facilities/natural landscapes that you have nearby, what you can afford to spend on equipment (if anything), and your interests.
For example, swimming is a fantastic form of exercise whether you are competing against other swimmers or trying to beat your own records, but you will need to have access to a pool. Of course, you could swim in open water if you live near a lake or the ocean, but this is more challenging and dangerous, especially for beginners. Other water-based solo sports include kayaking, surfing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, diving, or sailing.
Running is a particularly popular form of exercise for many people, and more and more people are getting involved with track and field events thanks to the Olympics. Alternatively, you could try cycling, mountain biking, ice skating, rollerblading, rock climbing, golfing, horse riding, archery, snowboarding, weightlifting, martial arts, or dancing. Even if you live in the middle of a city, you should be able to find an indoor facility offering sports like rock climbing, snowboarding, or archery. Tennis is also an option if you can find opponents to play against.
Try a team sport
Team sports are great because we often perform better when we are competing against others, and when we have the motivation provided by the team dynamic. Just about every team sport is played recreationally, so the best place to start is to search the internet for local clubs or leagues. For example, a Myprotein study found that football is the most universally practised sport in the world, and each town usually has at least one amateur league or friendly tournament. Other popular team sports include netball, basketball, volleyball, hockey, and lacrosse. If you have a friend who you would like to play sport with, playing doubles tennis could be another choice to consider.
When you find a team that you would like to play with, it is usually the case that the team will welcome beginners to their training sessions but may not invite them to play competitively for a while. Of course, if you want to train as part of a team but do not want to compete, you should make this clear when you approach them.
Try a quirky sport
We have covered the traditional sports, but it is important to mention the many quirky or unusual sports out there which are increasing in popularity.
Dancing, whether as an individual, a group, or as part of a couple, is another popular sport with lots of different styles to choose from, including ballet, tap, Latin, ballroom, and more contemporary dances, e.g., pole dancing. Dancing can be both a wonderful hobby and a competitive sport, and you can choose whether to pursue it alone, in a class, or with a partner.
Roller derby, for example, is an exciting, high-speed, full-contact sport played on roller skates. It can be aggressive, but it also has a close-knit social element, which makes it appealing for lots of people.
It is highly likely that at some point you have been to the circus, but you may not think of circus performers as sportspeople. It takes a high level of physical fitness and skill to perform the feats that they do, and circus arts and skills classes are popping up all over the place, combining physical and mental challenges such as aerial silks, unicycling, and trapeze.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? If the answer is yes, you might want to find out if there is a Quidditch group nearby where you can play the real-life version of the fictional magical sport. If childhood games appeal, then you might consider joining a frisbee, kickball, or ‘chase tag’ league, all of which are becoming more popular in the US and the UK.