Sport for all

Get active and involved in sport

Sport is accessible to all regardless of ability. If you look closely enough there will be sports clubs to cater for you, even if you are a complete novice. The health benefits of participation in sport are obvious, so it's time to get active and get into sport!

Finding time for exercise can be difficult. Too many of us get set in our ways, with a routine that involves coming in from work or school and then slouching in front of the TV — breaking that cycle of inactivity is not easy!

Most of us are aware of the health benefits that actively being involved in sport brings, but there are also the social benefits, with membership of a club bringing us new friends and improving our self worth.

The idea of throwing yourself in at the deep end is a scary one, but don’t forget, you are not the first beginner that a club will have seen. Everyone has to start somewhere! Even the world's best in any sport were once novices.

Play sport regardless of age

Most sports are open to all, regardless of age. Okay, we’re not going to kid ourselves that if we are of a more 'mature' age that we are always going to be able to compete successfully against a fitter and younger person, but in some sports a little bit of maturity goes a long way.

If you are young, then now really is the time to get involved. How many people have taken to a sport in later life, only to wish they had started it when they were younger? The advice is: try out as many sports as you can until you find the one or few that you think really are for you.

For those who are older the advice is: just give it a go! What is there to lose? You may try something and find that it's not for you, but what have you lost? The flipside is that you may find a sport that you love and wonder why you never tried it in the first place.

Play for the love of the sport

Not all sports are about competition. Many people participate for the love of the sport or just to be involved with other people, regardless of whether they win, lose or draw.

It may just be a case of wanting to improve their own standards for their own enjoyment, or just to be in the thick of the ac

tion. If you used to be involved in a sport that you really enjoyed, but dropped it due to other commitments, now might just be the right time to give it a go again.

A couple exercising and stretching

Degree of fitness

The idea that everyone involved in sport is a sculpted Adonis is one that puts many people off getting involved. Dismiss that notion immediately! Any decent club will cater for participants of all abilities and fitness levels, and tailor a plan to improve both over time, while many of the more experienced participants are only too keen to pass on the benefit of their experience. There is no better ego boost to them than helping you on your way! But are you fit to train?

Don’t worry if you are not particularly fit or are carrying some excess weight. If your goal is to get fit, then you will get there provided you show the right dedication, and if the sport is one that you enjoy, then motivation will be no problem. How many people do you see running in the local park who are there week-in week-out regardless of the weather? Many of those are far from perfect specimens!

Where to start if I’m not particularly fit?

What if you have been largely inactive for several years and consider yourself out of shape and are worried about suddenly starting a sport? A good place to start would be walking. Walking costs nothing, and can be fitted into our daily lives, simply by walking to work, walking to the shops or just getting off the bus a stop or two earlier. Every minute you walk is believed to add between one-and-a-half to two minutes to your life.

Over time, you can gradually increase the speed or distance of your walks. Once you’ve improved your general fitness, you may find yourself ready to tackle a more challenging sport.

Other sports don’t require a particularly high degree of physical fitness, but require mental fitness which we all have and are able to improve.

Accessibility of sports

Many sports are accessible to all. You need only look at the success of the Paralympic Games to see that a disability is not a bar to getting involved.

More and more clubs are getting tuned into the need to open up their sports to everyone, including those with disabilities. Certain sports such as judo, because of the close contact involved, can see blind or partially sighted people able to compete equally with sighted people. Another example is fencing which allows disabled people to compete against fully able-bodied fencers.

Cost of starting out in a sport

The cost of a sport is rarely a bar to getting involved. Obviously some sports such as sailing, golf, or horse riding may require a significant initial outlay if you want to buy all the kit, but there are still taster sessions for these sports to be found to try before you buy!

There are many initiatives, particularly for the young, whereby subsidized sessions make it possible to have a go without having to shell out for any equipment initially. Most clubs will have equipment for hire or even free of charge, and then will be able to advise on what to buy if you find you get a taste for a particular sport.

The final word on getting started in sport

There is a sport out there for all of us, the only thing stopping you having a go is you. Try to think what your goals are — whether it is to improve fitness, aiming for competitions, gaining competence in sport, or just enjoying yourself — and think what you realistically could do.

If you are not particularly confident or a bit wary about going along alone to give a sport a try, then participate in sport or exercise with a friend. At the very least you will both probably have a laugh at each other’s initial efforts! Then, if you both get a bug for the sport, it will be easy to keep it up with both of you encouraging one another.

Being involved will not only improve your health, but will also make you feel better about yourself, and bring you into contact with people you probably would never have met.

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