We live in a fast-paced world where work often takes priority. Stress eventually takes its toll, giving us clear signs that it’s time to put our health first. Exercise plays a vital role in maintaining mental and physical health. But the truth is, starting a workout routine for the sake of living a healthier lifestyle has its pitfalls.
It’s hard to stay motivated and keep at it. Taking up a sport could make a difference. Focusing on mastering skills and improving performance holds our attention much longer (and is more fun) than working out for the sake of being healthy. But not all sports have the same impact on overall health. To help steer you in the right direction we have come up with a list of the 10 best sports for overall physical health and fitness.
Martial Arts, like karate, judo, kickboxing or tae-kwon-do, combine everything the human body needs: flexibility, movement, strength, speed, power, and endurance. A 130 lb. person doing Martial Arts for an hour can burn around 590 calories.
Martial Arts is not only physically demanding, but it also requires mental strength and discipline too. It takes incredible perseverance and determination to get through a match when you are so exhausted that you can barely stand. If you’re looking for an intense, full-body workout with a high-calorie burn, Martial Arts is a route to explore. The bonus – zero equipment required.
Want to feel at one with the ocean while getting a super intense full-body workout? Try surfing. It’s not quite as laid back as you might think. It requires the use of your entire body – from the arms, chest, back, and shoulders, which are activated in paddling, to your lower body and core in balancing on the board.
Not to mention the incredible stamina and fitness required to hold your breath for extended periods of time while your heart is pounding in your throat. It’s strength, balance and cardio, all packed into one, with one adrenalin jolt after the other.
With swimming, cycling and running in the mix, triathlons are great for overall physical health. This multidisciplinary sport provides a full-body workout that utilizes all the major muscle groups – in the upper and lower body (not to mention the excellent cardio benefits).
The fact that triathlon has both weight-bearing (running) and non-weight-bearing (swimming and cycling) components, sets this sport apart from others. You don’t put force on your bones all the time, but you still get the benefits of the weight-bearing component, which improves bone density.
Kitesurfing can seem intimidating to those who haven’t tried it, but learning how to kitesurf is actually very easy – anyone can do it. Kitesurfing mostly works the legs (quads, hamstrings, and calves) and core – the abs, lower back and deeper core muscles such as the transverse abs and the multifidus – a thin muscle deep in the spine, spanning three joint segments. These muscles get strongly engaged especially when carving upwind, which involves pulling hard into your harness to create tension in your lines.
The intensity of the workout depends on wind and water conditions and your riding style – how much upwind riding you do. Although kitesurfing focuses mainly on muscular strength, it can give you a great cardio workout too with the right riding style.
Gymnastics is arguably one of the toughest sports when it comes to physical strength and flexibility. But aside from the sheer strength and suppleness required to compete in this sport, gymnastics takes a lot of dedication and discipline – you have to admire the work ethic required to perfect all those intricate flips, twists and jumps.
Gymnasts’ strength-training workouts are so intense that many of their exercises are now being incorporated into CrossFit and bodybuilding routines around the world – which says a lot about their level of intensity. If you are up for the challenge, gymnastics is definitely a sport to consider.
Wrestling is great for overall physical health and fitness because it requires strength, balance, agility, endurance, power, coordination and dexterity. The pushing and pulling motions work the upper body and, since you’re in a squatted position most of the time, the legs get a great workout too.
Core strength is important for balance and short, explosive movements, while flexibility helps in pulling off stunts and maneuvers to fight off an opponent’s takedown. A wrestling match is six minutes of non-stop action, which requires excellent cardiovascular fitness too.
Squash demands agility, speed, and excellent muscular endurance to withstand those long, intense rallies. It’s great for torching calories, increasing aerobic fitness, boosting flexibility, developing strength and improving hand-eye coordination. On top of this, squash offers great social interaction and healthy competition.
CrossFit is an all-in-one deal requiring exceptional physical and mental strength. Instead of specializing in one particular discipline, it combines strength training, explosive plyometrics, body weight exercises, Olympic and power-style weight lifting, kettlebells, gymnastics, speed training, and endurance exercises.
All the major components of physical fitness are involved: cardiorespiratory fitness, speed, balance, stamina, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, power, agility, coordination, and accuracy. Expect to be challenged to the max!
Getting knocked out is perhaps not the best way to go if you want to put your health first – buy hey, getting into boxing doesn’t mean you have to go pro you can box in VR. The fact remains: boxers are exceptional athletes and the sport offers an incredible full-body workout. When facing your opponent you need strength, flexibility, power, accuracy, speed, muscular and cardiovascular endurance. On top of this, boxing requires conditioning of the mind too as the physical battle turns psychological at some point. It’s the ultimate test of physical and mental stamina in a sport.
Riding a mountain bike is one of the best cardiovascular exercises out there, not to mention the sheer joy of being out in nature. Mountain biking increases cardiovascular fitness, it boosts muscle strength (especially in the lower body), improves flexibility and develops balance and coordination. Peddling up technical rocky hills and maneuvering down narrow, snaking paths involve every inch of the human body to work together. But the reward is well worth it.