Let’s face it, spending hours in the gym can feel like a real drudgery at times, especially if you prefer competitive or recreational exercise to traditional cardio and resistance training. But if you’re trying to get fit or maintain some level of health, committing to a consistent exercise schedule is probably high on your to-do list.
The good news is that you don’t have to hit the gym to be competitive or to increase your overall fitness. In fact, you can get all that and more by participating in your favorite sport multiple days a week. Here are some sports that will help improve your fitness.
Racing bike and mountain bike
Road or trail, fast or slow, bicycling is one of the best sports you can do for overall fitness. Not only will you get a fantastic aerobic workout, but your leg muscles — specifically your quads, glutes, and hamstrings — will feel the burn after a few miles. In addition, research has shown that cycling can reduce the risk of premature mortality for cyclists, particularly those with diabetes.
There are also bikes for all ages and levels. Intermediate to advanced riders can take part in road cycling and mountain biking, while beginners can start with paved trails. If you want to satisfy your competitive side, consider entering a road or mountain bike race.
Squash, racquetball, or tennis
It’s not uncommon to see squash and racquetball courts packed with people of all ages and fitness levels. The key to making these fast-paced activities accessible to beginners is to slow the pace of the game.
Squash, racquetball, and even tennis target the muscles in your back, shoulders, arms, chest, quads, glutes, and hamstrings while working your core. Racket sports have also been shown to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.2
Combine this with the stamina, speed, balance, and agility needed to compete, and you’ll quickly see how these two sports can give you phenomenal workouts while burning a ton of calories.
18 holes of golf
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need an expensive set of racquets to hit the court. But what you need is a supportive pair of shoes.
For golf to make the list of top sports for fitness, you need to run all 18 holes while carrying or pushing your clubs. When you walk the course, golf can have several health benefits, including cardiovascular and respiratory health.3 Additionally, golf is a sport that you can participate in at any stage of life.
Water sports – rowing, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing
Rowing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding provide a fun fitness solution for anyone who loves the outdoors. These sports all increase your heart rate, increase muscular endurance and strength, and turn your body into a calorie-burning machine.4 If you want to compete in a sport that requires rowing, consider joining an outrigger team.
Activities that require your upper and lower body muscles to work together rank high on the list of “best sports for fitness.” Swimming is the perfect full-body workout for anyone looking for an intense and competitive outlet that requires both strength and endurance. It’s also a smart solution for anyone who needs a low-impact sport or activity.5
Plus, swimming is a year-round sport with varying levels of competition, so you’ll always have something to work towards. If you are interested in entering organized, competitive swimming events, consider attending the U.S. Masters Swimming under consideration.
Whether you’re a lifelong athlete looking to test your endurance and strength, or a beginner in training who needs a goal to work toward, training for a triathlon is the ultimate fitness sport.
The combination of running, cycling, and swimming will challenge every muscle in your body and increase your aerobic and anaerobic fitness.6 With distances ranging from shorter sprint races to a full Ironman event, there is something for every fitness level.
basketball and volleyball
Basketball and volleyball offer the physical benefits of a great workout while also giving you a chance to show your competitive side. These sports require you to perform sprints, spins, jumps, and slams that work the cardiovascular system and strengthen every muscle in your body. Also, when you play sand volleyball, your muscles have to work harder.
While both sports are suitable for most levels, it’s important to note that beginners should start with skills and drill course before moving on to games or matches. Both sports require a lot of exercise, so the risk of injury is high, especially if you’ve never played either sport before