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5 Sports You Can Enjoy for Life

Recreation That Won't Wear You Down

Cycling, tennis and swimming all enter the sports spotlight during summer, both in the form of worldwide competitions and weekend recreation. A bike race through France attracts some of the most fit competitors while the best athletes in the world compete in contests that come only once every four years. And yet, most teenagers play basketball, football or volleyball – high impact sports that can, with time, create strain and lead to injury on some of your most worked body parts.

Sports like golf offer competition and fitness your son or daughter can engage in from adolescence through old age. Whether at an interscholastic competition or in an over-50 local league, here are a few athletic endeavors you can enjoy for life:

1. Swimming

Not only is this one of the most popular sports to watch on the world stage, swimming is also one of the most recommended workouts at all stages of life.

As competitive as any contact sport, swimming is a race that doesn’t put as much strain on your body as running. Swimmers are at lower risk for injury while still experiencing one of the best exercises out there. This is because the water supports the weight of the body, limiting stress on the skeleton, yet also provides natural resistance that builds and tones muscles. Swimming is a cardiovascular workout and strengthens the heart, and also improves flexibility and builds muscles often ignored by other workouts.

All of which stays true as you age and your fitness ability changes. Low risk of injury means you won’t be forced out of an active lifestyle and there’s no reason you can’t keep swimming long after leaving the pool of competition. Moreover, many swimmers report that this activity offers a kind of meditation, relieving stress and supporting emotional health.

2. Tennis

Tennis is the original ‘sport for a lifetime’ and a competitive one at any age. Great for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, tennis builds leg strength and improves coordination, agility and balance.

Tennis is a high impact sport, meaning your body will experience some wear and tear and your game will necessarily evolve as you age. That said, tennis lends itself to this transition better than most high impact sports. While you may sprint slower or smash less, tennis remains a viable exercise for your heart, flexibility, balance and coordination as you age.

3. Cycling

You don’t have to cycle through an entire European country to experience the health benefits of biking. And you don’t have to give it up as you age either – many older athletes continue to ride, on both stationary bikes and the open road. While most schools won’t have a cycling team for your child to join, there’s no reason not to encourage a love of riding, whether as cross-training or recreation.

Like swimming, cycling puts very little stress on the body and won’t wear down cartilage or ligaments. At the same time, cycling strengthens and tones muscles, improves flexibility and mobility and increases stamina. It’s associated with improved lung and heart function as well as circulation. And, much like swimming, its advocates report reduced stress, anxiety and depression.

Biking and cycling expose you to people – and vehicles – who are not actively aware of you. Safety is key: wearing helmets and bright colors is essential as well as attaching other precautions to your bike like lights and reflectors.

4. Rowing, Kayaking and Canoeing

Rowing, also known as crew, is available at a surprising number of schools, inland and on the water, though in most cases, it’s offered as a club or rec option. Nonetheless, races can offer a sense of competition for the student athlete who craves a contest.

Crew is a team sport, offering the benefits with which group exercise is associated, and many cities have clubs that allow you to keep rowing with a group even after your competitive prime has past. And, when it’s time to put the shell away or just a rainy day, there are always rowing machines at the gym or home to keep you going.

No matter where, how or with whom you’re rowing, it’s going to provide a serious workout. Rowing exercises all the big muscle groups, strengthening core, back, arms and legs while burning more calories than cycling or running.

Kayaking and canoeing are less intense forms of rowing, but they are nonetheless great upper body workouts that can, in the right environments, provide a sense of outdoor adventure missing from crew. By working mainly the upper body, kayaking and canoeing are often recommended as cross training for runners or as a workout for someone who has injured his or her knees earlier in life.

5. Golf

From NBA players to your millennial neighbors, golf is an increasingly popular activity for athletes of all ages. In addition to being a great workout – walking 18 holes equates to about fives miles and up to 2,000 calories – golf can also be a moderate form of exercise and offers a range of health benefits, both physical and mental.

Golf is not a substitute for sustained cardiovascular activity and no matter the age of the golfer, it’s best to complement golfing with another sport or exercise. The good news, however, is that hitting the gym and working out in other ways will also benefit your golf game.

Some schools have golf teams, however, if someone in your family plays the sport, it can be just as fulfilling for your child to visit the course with a loved one.