When it comes to the benefits of regular exercise, we all know that moving your body is good for your physical and mental health.
Latest figures from the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines show that regular physical activity keeps your cardiovascular system nice and strong, improves sleep, helps with managing stress, supports healthy body weight and reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease by upto 40%.
But what about the other reasons to move?
There are plenty of hidden benefits in different types of exercise that might surprise you, because being healthy isn’t always just about hitting the gym or going for a run!
Find out more about the benefits of other activities and sports that are often available right on your doorstep, to show how visiting your local leisure centre can bring your body and mind more bang for your fitness buck!
Improve balance and strength with yoga
If you think yoga is a good tool for relaxation and reconnecting the body and the mind, you’re not wrong. Even just a few minutes of controlled, mindful movement while focusing on your breath can be a fantastic de-stressor, and has been proven in numerous studies to reduce production of the stress hormone cortisol.
But did you know that yoga actually provides a full-body workout and is also great for improving balance, coordination and strength, not to mention mobility?
If you’re new to yoga it might surprise you how much strength it takes to hold your body in a balanced pose, or move between poses, and even though it’s a low impact activity it’s not uncommon to break a sweat during a class!
These complementary skills can really help to improve your performance and enjoyment of other sports such as swimming, running or weight training. Yoga is also great for stretching after exercise - which is often overlooked, esecially by men. Read all about the importance of stretching.
With so many different types of yoga there is something for everyone, of all abilities, so it’s important to find the right one for you, but the good news is you can start to feel the benefits from your very first session and from as little as one class a week!
Find out about the yoga classes on offer at your local Freedom Leisure centre.
Build stronger bones with badminton
Studies have shown badminton to be a great sport for increasing bone density, but that’s not the only benefit of this 2,000 year old game.
Because the badminton net sits 5ft high – 1.5 feet higher than the tennis net – and the shuttlecock is light, doesn’t bounce and needs to be kept airborne in play, you need more propulsion than in other racket sports.
Agility, balance, coordination and explosive power are all important on the court. There’s more propulsion than in other racket sports – you’re hitting overhead, often unbalanced, and have to think quickly to stay in the game – so it really can be an all-body and mind workout rolled into one!
Read more about the health benefits of badminton on our blog.
Keep your mind sharp with table tennis
If you’ve ever watched a professional table tennis match on the TV you’ll understand why it’s considered one of the fastest sports in the world. The good news is, anyone can play, and you don’t have to be at elite level to enjoy the benefits it brings!
Table tennis – sometimes known as ping pong, is a fun, family-friendly game that can be played by all ages and slowed down or sped up to suit the players. It’s a great option for elderly adults as it can improve leg and core strength without overtaxing your joints, improve balance and coordination, and according to studies published on Alzheimer’s Weekly, can increase motor skills and maintain memory.
The best thing about our leisure centre is that there really is something for everyone! One of our most popular activities is table tennis – because it’s a game anyone can play, you don’t have to be a member and you can just pop in and play or join the table tennis club. What I love most is seeing families come in for a game; the kids, parents and grandparents all playing together. This sport really appeals to everyone – one day we will have a Dementia Friends club in, the next a group of teenagers killing time on the weekend!Freedom Leisure Centre Manager, Sarah Jones
Stay active or reconnected with a previous passion for a game with walking sports
Recently we’ve seen a rise in adapted versions of popular team sports such as walking football, walking cricket and walking netball to name a few. These indoor or outdoor sports are a great way to keep active for people returning to sport after an injury, older people wanting to keep moving, or those with mobility problems.
The Walking Football Association and various studies sing the praises of walking football for a multitude of health benefits, including its effectiveness in maintaining a healthy weight and treating hypertension in older adults, bringing positive changes in postural balance, resting heart rate and improved blood sugar levels, not to mention the mental health and wellbeing benefits of being part of a team.
Walking versions of much-loved games are also a great way for people to get back to a sport they previously loved – whether playing it at school or as a young adult, reigniting that flame can work wonders for mental wellbeing!
Then there’s the social side of it too – a weekly kickabout with your new friends and a catch up in the leisure café afterwards – what could be better?
Boost your brain with HIIT
The intensity at which we exercise of course has an impact on the physical results we’ll see, but what about the mental benefits?
Adding intervals to your routine could help to bring you not just a healthy body but a healthy mind too. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is great training for the brain, and can actually enhance learning to give you a real brain boost, as well as delivering the bucket load of physical benefits you expect.
A study from the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise (that’s anything that gets your heart rate up and sweat pumping like HIIT, Zumba, indoor cycling or running), actually boosts the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning.
Treat your body and brain to some HIIT or circuit classes at your local Freedom Leisure Centre.
Make new friends with team sports
Joining a sports team can bring a world of physical and mental health benefits, and studies have shown it can even boost life satisfaction!
You’ll learn a new game, pick up new skills (or brush up on old ones if you’re a returning player) and stay motivated to keep going, bringing purpose to your training.
Not only that, you’ll make new friends too! Being part of a team is great for building a sense of belonging, and for meeting new people you might not ordinarily come into contact with. For kids it’s great as it teaches them to play well together, socialise and make new friends, as well as learning new skills, keeping fit and progressing in a new sport.
The beauty of local community leisure centres is that they are so much more than gyms and studios like most private health clubs and budget gyms! They nearly all have sports pitches whether outside or in sports hall and they provide crucial spaces for people to play team sports! Whether it’s five-a-side with your mates after work, weekend netball matches, a quick game of mixed doubles tennis or basketball club – there are hundreds of different sports session and clubs going on at your local leisure centre each week! Get involved to stay active, have fun and meet new friends.Freedom Leisure Head of Active Communities, Richard Bagwell
Boost self-esteem and your immune system with dance
Let’s face it, we all love to dance. At family get togethers, parties and on nights out – but what about dancing for exercise?
Dancing is a great way have fun, move your body and work up a sweat, as well as building strength, increasing flexibility and improving coordination. Studies have shown the benefits of dance on both children and adults for improving self-esteem and awareness, confidence and improving social relationships, as well as promoting wellness to strengthen the immune system!
There are so many different variations of dance available to try so you’ll never get bored – Zumba classes, aerobics, street dance, and more, not forgetting the dance elements of other popular classes like Body Attack, Piloxing (a merge of pilates and boxing!)
With so many activities on offer at your local Freedom Leisure Centre, pop along and find an activity you love - and start reaping the health benefits!