The benefits of being active don't stop at staying physically healthy—it's a great way to make new friends or catch up with old ones!
Warm summer breezes can usher in a renewed interest in getting active. And, with all the amazing and fun ways to get moving it's a great time to pick up a new activity. As city parks, street fairs, block parties, and community centers buzz with summer events and activities, you'll find plenty of opportunity to try your hand at a new sport—and new friendships, to boot.
Whether you're looking to toss a frisbee or suit up for a competitive sport, there is a fair-weather activity for you. Before you jump into something new, spending a bit of time thinking through your goals, personal preferences, and any limitations you may have will help you find something you'll enjoy.
For example, if you're someone who loves the outdoors but hates being in the water, water aerobics isn't likely to be a good fit—but tennis could be just the ticket! Starting with a sport that's likely to suit you increases the odds you'll stick with it and enjoy the long-term benefits of being active.
Factor in Health Conditions
If you have a chronic health condition or you're new to exercise, experts at Mayo Clinic recommend talking with your doctor before getting started. They can offer important guidance and recommendations, such as how to pace yourself, specific activities to try or avoid, and what to do if you run into health issues. Here are considerations for some common conditions:
- Arthritis: Seek out activities that are easy on your joints. Aquatic exercise is a great choice as the added buoyancy of water takes pressure off your bones, joints, and muscles. U.S. Masters Swimming offers coached teams you can join to share lap-swim workouts and even race against your peers. Water polo is another high-intensity, low-impact competitive option for people of all ages
- Exercise-induced asthma: Sports that require short bursts of activity, such as tennis or softball, may be easier for you to tolerate than those that involve constant, uninterrupted activity, such as soccer. Avoid exercising in cold, dry weather; water-based sports in a warm, humid environment are less likely to trigger symptoms. Your doctor may recommend carrying an inhaler, if you use one, and taking asthma medications before you exercise.
- Diabetes: If you're new to exercise or planning to step up your intensity, your doctor may recommend checking your blood sugar before your games or practices. You also may need to make time for a healthy snack before grabbing your goggles or paddle, to make sure your blood sugar doesn't drop too low while you're in the heat of an athletic event, according to the American Diabetes Association.
- Heart disease: Help your heart safely adjust to increased activity by gradually increasing the length and intensity of your workouts over time. Warm up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after a workout. Skip a planned activity (or come up with an indoor alternative) if conditions are unusually hot or cold as extreme temperatures can make your heart work extra hard. Ask your doctor what symptoms should prompt you to stop or decrease your activity immediately. Dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, or irregular heart beats are clues that your heart is working too hard. If you have had a heart attack or have chest pain, your doctor may prescribe nitroglycerin tablets to keep with you at all times, especially when you exercise.
Plan to Protect Your Skin
While summer is a great time to jump into a new sport, take care to avoid activities that involve exposure to midday sun. To reduce the risk of sunburn, the American Cancer Society recommends limiting direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When you're out in the sun, always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Reapply every two hours, and again immediately after swimming or sweating.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends scheduling outdoor activities during morning and evening hours to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke—conditions that result from excessive exposure to heat. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be dangerous, especially for older adults who may be more likely to take medications or have chronic conditions that make them more sensitive to heat. Watch for signs and symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
Honor Your Social Style
If you like big, new groups, seek out highly social activities such as cornhole, bocce ball or shuffleboard. Your local community center and public park events are likely to feature these lively activities that can quickly make strangers into friends.
If you enjoy the company of others but prefer the option to listen rather than speak, you may enjoy activities that emphasize fellowship without any chit-chat required. Biking groups, swim teams, and tennis are much more likely to suit your style.
Grab your suit and head to your local pool or walk to a nearby park with a friend and get moving! You'll find plenty of social sports and activities to try, and with a good sense of what you're looking for, there's every chance you'll find it this summer.
By Nancy Boudreau
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Physical Activity for Arthritis
Mayo Clinic, Exercise and Chronic Disease: Get the Facts
American College of Sports Medicine, Exercising with Coronary Heart Disease
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (Asthma)
National Library of Medicine, Being Active When You Have Heart Disease
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heat Stress in Older Adults
The Arthritis Foundation, 15 Ways to Work Out With Arthritis
American Diabetes Association, Blood Glucose Control and Exercise
American Cancer Society, How Do I Protect Myself From UV Rays?