Name Your Sport, Find Your Passion
Finding a sport or fitness activity you’re going to stick with beyond the enthusiasm of “new year, new me” is all about identifying something you’re going to enjoy. It’s really that simple – if you’re having fun, you’ll want to drag yourself off the sofa to that club, class or gym activity.
“There’s a wide range of opportunities and activities available for people of all ages and abilities across the county and being active is good for body, mind and health,” says Elise Rendall, Sport and Physical Activity officer at Kent Sport.
“Whether you’re looking for an indoor or outdoor activity, a solo or team sport, to meet new people or take part with the family, there are many ways to get active.”
There’s no better time of year to take up a new pursuit – so here’s our A to Z of sport to inspire you in the months ahead...
A is for... Archery
Historically used in combat and hunting, archery requires participants to master the use of a bow to propel arrows towards a target. Today, it’s a fast-growing pursuit, with governing body Archery GB numbering more than 47,000 members taking part in a sport that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
• Visit www.archerygb.org
B is for... Badminton
This racquet sport is one that can be enjoyed by most people, and Badminton England’s current strategy is focused on increasing participation at grass roots level by getting more participants involved, strengthening club membership and expanding opportunities.
• Visit www.badmintonengland.co.uk
C is for... Canyoning
Here’s one for the daredevils amongst you who relish the prospect of travelling through canyons using a range of techniques from walking and climbing to jumping, swimming and abseiling. There are various sites and experiences run by reputable organisers across England, Wales and Scotland.
D is for... Dance
There are so many reasons to recommend dancing – it’s a great workout that gets the heart pumping, it increases stamina, strengthens bones and muscles and is low-impact on joints. It’s also a highly sociable pastime and just about guaranteed to get the happy hormones flowing.
E is for... Equestrian Sports
Learning to ride a horse might seem an ambitious, expensive pastime, but it could
be more accessible than you think. And given we live in a part of the country blessed with great facilities there are plenty of opportunities on the doorstep.
F is for... Football
It’s World Cup year and various initiatives are doing much to bring “the beautiful game” to a wider UK audience. Football is now the biggest women’s team sport in England, while the FA Mars Just Play programme gives the casual footballer who doesn’t want to commit to an eight-month season opportunities for a regular kickabout.
• Visit www.thefa.com
G is for... Gymnastics
Breathtaking to watch and exciting to perform, gymnastics is one of the most popular sports in Great Britain with an estimated four million people taking part regularly. Performance gymnasts demonstrate amazing skill, exceptional strength and great courage but the sport offers everyone – from babies to those in their 80s and beyond – a fun and exhilarating activity.
• Visit www.british-gymnastics.org
H is for... Hiking
With such a fast-paced, technologically-driven society, can there be many better ways than taking off into the great outdoors for a spot of rejuvenating of body and soul? Time spent in the fresh air is proven to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve mood and quality of sleep. And, aside from a good pair of walking shoes, it’s free!
I is for... Ice Skating
It’s a highly sociable, fun pursuit to be enjoyed by families or groups of friends, but ice skating also offers many other benefits while you’re perfecting your moves – or merely trying to keep your balance! It’s great exercise for leg muscles and also offers a rather effective aerobic workout.
J is for... Jiu Jitsu
This Japanese martial art uses joint locks, throws and strikes to defend a variety of attacks. The Jiu Jitsu Foundation offers classes all over the country and uses a modern form that has been adapted to take into account the sort of self-defence situations the modern world can present. Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) focuses on grappling on the floor, features no striking and is taught mainly through training and competitive sparring.
• Visit www.jitsufoundation.org
K is for... Karate
Karate was thought of as an art by the Okinawan practitioners and therefore the term “jutsu” (art) was appended giving the complete title “Karate-jutsu” which can be translated as “art of the Chinese hands”. Latest figures suggest 65,000 people in England in 2015-16 got to grips with its combination of punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes.
L is for...Lacrosse
Although dubbed “the fastest sport on two feet” you might get a slightly blank look if you ask the average person what they know about this team game played with a stick and ball. This is, though, a sport offering plenty of opportunities for anyone looking for a new challenge.
M is for... Muay Thai
Thailand’s national sport is often referred to as “the art of eight limbs” because of its integrated use of elbows, fists, shins and knees. Growing in popularity across the world, it’s an adrenalin-fuelled martial art that can, at turns, be both thrilling and beautiful to watch. Muay Thai is set to make its Olympic Games’ debut at Paris 2024.
N is for... Netball
One of the country’s fastest-growing activities, an estimated one million people play netball each week – up by 13,000 in the past year according to Sport England. Various initiatives such as Back 2 Netball, Walking Netball and Netball Now are all doing their bit in both encouraging greater participation and making the game more accessible.
O is for... Orienteering
An adventure sport suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Participants have to navigate their way between a series of checkpoints (controls) shown on a map as quickly as possible. There’s no set route between controls, so you have to decide which way to go and then find your way there without getting lost!
P is for... Paragliding
In the UK paragliding is thriving. Shops run by enthusiasts sell the necessary equipment, while the country-wide network of BHPA recreational clubs (www.bhpa.co.uk) features hundreds of flying sites. Paragliding offers the same freedom the hang glider pilots enjoy but is more portable and a little easier to learn to fly.
Q is for... Quadrathlon
Here’s one for the hard core of you out there. A quadrathlon is an endurance event composed of four individual disciplines – swimming, kayaking, cycling and running. They are completed in succession and the lowest overall time decides the winner. The British Quadrathlon Association website has details of events in the UK as well as World Cup Races overseas.
• Visit www.britishquadrathlon.org.uk
R is for... Rowing
Almost a quarter of a million of us row every month and it’s growing in popularity. It is at grass roots level though that it’s having something of a golden patch. In much the same way cycling and boxing have challenged the dominance of traditional activities such as football and golf, rowing has a lot to celebrate as more people discover its fitness, social and competitive opportunities.
• Visit www.britishrowing.org
S is for... Swimming
Swimming isn’t just something that happens in local pools. It has established a place as part of endurance events such as triathlons, while open water swimming is attracting an increasing number of those up for a challenge. And, of course, learning to swim – no matter your age – is an essential life skill.
T is for... Taekwondo
Originating in Korea and with a history stretching back 2,000 years, the martial art of Taekwondo is typified by a fast-moving portfolio of kicks delivered at head-height and through combinations of jumping and spinning. The sport is reported to have more than 60 million practitioners in 184 countries.
• Visit www.britishtaekwondo.org.uk
U is for... Unicycling
You might consider it more of a speciality or circus act but unicycling requires concentration and skill – not to mention being an effective way to strengthen core muscles (great for helping the pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen work in harmony) as you master a vehicle that contacts with the ground using just one wheel. The Union of UK Unicylists has details of regional clubs, training and events.
• Visit www.unicycle.org.uk
V is for... Volleyball
A sport played by two teams of six separated by a net, the aim of volleyball is to score points by – within the rules – grounding a ball on the other team’s court. Volleyball England is working hard to modernise the image of the game and has set itself some ambitious targets for expanding membership.
• Visit www.volleyballengland.org
W is for... Weight Training
Forget any notions weight lifting is only for those with bulging muscles and an in-built ability to grunt and groan. Using weights has huge benefits, from burning fat, reducing the risk of diabetes, preventing back pain and even fighting depression. And it’s especially good for women as it strengthens bones and may prevent conditions such as osteoporosis developing in later life.
X is for... X-treme Sports
Okay, we cheated a bit here but, for the fearless, the choice of extreme sports covers ice climbing, bungee jumping, freshwater cave diving, heli-skiing and zorbing (that’s an adrenalin-fuelled water ride inside an inflatable ball!).
Y is for... Yoga
There are so many reasons we should do yoga that it’s difficult to know where to start, so let’s just say it is ideal for body, mind, posture and general wellbeing. It’s also perfect as you work your body at your own pace while, for the more serious, there are forms of the discipline that make for a pretty tough workout.
• Visit www.bwy.org.uk
Z is for... Zumba
An exercise programme pioneered in the 1990s by Colombian dancer Alberto “Beto” Perez, Zumba has become something of a global phenomenon with its blend of movements inspired by various styles of Latin American dance and an effective aerobic fitness routine with millions of devotees around the world.
• Visit www.zumba.com