WE’VE cheered on Team GB’s cyclists, watched gymnasts in awe as they stormed to bronze and swelled with pride at the sterling efforts of our swimmers. And done it all from the comfort of the sofa.
But what if all that power and determination, sporting prowess and true grit has inspired you to actually move – and by “move” we’re not talking shuffling to the kitchen for more TV snacks. What if Tom Daley’s diving or Bradley Wiggins’ cycling has ignited the sporting hero inside you?
Research earlier this week revealed the extent of Britain’s inactivity, with two thirds of us failing to take regular exercise, with potentially deadly health implications.
The global study into activity levels also suggests that lack of exercise claims more than 90,000 lives in the UK each year, as a result of illnesses, such as heart disease, breast and bowel cancer and diabetes.
The minimum amount of exercise recommended by the NHS is at least two and a half hours a week, either 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity – such as cycling or fast walking – or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running. An equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity also meets recommendations. But if the findings are correct, most of us aren’t even achieving that.
Of course, it’s a bit of a leap to dash from the couch to the winner’s podium. But if London 2012 has left you reflecting on your own championship status as a couch potato, could now be the time to get sporty?
HAVE A BALL
This time last week, who’d have thought we’d be chatting about beach volleyball over the water cooler – the actual playing of it, as opposed to the athletes’ skimpy clothing. As for handball? Never heard of it.
According to Stephen Neilson, chairman of Scottish Handball, the sport – first played in Scotland by Norwegian students at Heriot-Watt University in 1968 – is growing in popularity.
“If you can throw a ball, catch it and pass a ball, you can play. You don’t need special equipment and it can be played anywhere,” he says.
An hour’s handball can burn off a whopping 400 calories, and give your hand-eye coordination a workout too.
As for beach volleyball, Edinburgh’s Shauna Mullin and Robin Miedzybrodzki are among the top British players – proof you don’t need the sunshine of Rio to take part. There are at least four volleyball clubs in the area – for details, contact the Scottish Volleyball Association (www.scottishvolleyball.org).
If you prefer your workout with more bounce, basketball is a perfect all-round aerobic activity, pushing the heart and lungs and working joints and muscles. City of Edinburgh Basketball Club is one of the biggest in the country. Go to www.cityof edinburghbasketball.net for details.
RING THE CHANGES
Being beaten to a pulp in a boxing ring might not sound healthy but there are benefits to be had from copying a boxer’s training regime.
Boxercise classes have been a regular fixture in gyms nationwide for years, combining aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, fast and slow muscle movements, balance, strength and endurance. Skipping, pad and bag work are all classed as aerobic exercises. Boxing clubs offer beginners’ training sessions, with half an hour of shadow boxing burning up around 380 calories.
Most of us quit the game after school, but hockey provides excellent strength training, especially in the legs and torso. As well as burning off calories, players require dexterity, good hand-eye coordination and sharp reflexes. And playing a team sport brings social benefits and helps bust stress.
Various men’s and women’s clubs exist in the Edinburgh area. Go to www.scottish-hockey.org.uk for details.
MAKE A RACQUET
(TENNIS OR BADMINTON, THAT IS)
Taking part in three hours of tennis a week can cut participants’ risk of death from any cause in half, according to one recent study.
Scientists at the University of Illinois found the sport’s requirement for alertness and tactical thinking means it could also generate new connections between nerves in the brain. It also burns more calories than aerobics or cycling.
Likewise, playing an energetic game of badminton on a regular basis is said to improve longevity by as much as two years, and reduce high blood pressure. Edinburgh Leisure facilities offer badminton courts, tennis, squash and table tennis.
Archery might sit at the more sedate end of the sport spectrum, but it has health benefits of its own.
Participants require a certain degree of upper body strength to control equipment and aim. And simply taking part can involve walking as much as five miles between targets – overshadowed by the focus, flexibility, and attention skills needed. Scottish archery.org.uk has club details.
CYCLE OF LIFE
INSPIRED by Bradley Wiggins and Edinburgh’s own Sir Chris Hoy? Cycling doesn’t have to be a full pelt, just a mile or two along the canal bank is better than sitting welded to your favourite TV chair.
It is easier on joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities but still powerful enough to help get you into shape. An hour’s ride will burn around 650 calories, toning legs and bottom in the process.
Cycle uphill – unavoidable in Edinburgh – and you’ll work your upper body. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every week – little more than cycling to work a couple of times plus a longer ride at the weekend.
But if you do crave the chance to put your pedal power to the test, Edinburgh RC is one of the biggest and most successful cycling clubs in the UK. It has one of the biggest women club memberships in the UK and a junior section for Tour de France winners of the future. Go to www.edinburghrc.org.uk for details.
HIT THE FLOOR
It takes blood, sweat and tears to do what super-Scot gymnast Daniel Purves and his bronze medal team-mates achieved earlier this week. But adult gymnastics classes are gaining in popularity for seniors seeking a different kind of workout.
Gymnastics requires strength, flexibility and coordination. Take to the trampoline and you’ll help your bones – repeated bouncing puts the bones under a degree of stress which actually strengthens them and even protects against fractures and oesteoporosis.
Drop-in adults’ gymnastics sessions are held at Meadowbank Sports Centre on Tuesdays. For details, go to edinburgh
leisure.co.uk or find a gymnastics club through
RUN FOR IT
Heriot-Watt graduate Freya Murray will pound the London streets in Sunday’s marathon while a few hours later all eyes will be on the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt.
Not all of us want to run a marathon or break the 100m record, but a gentle jog will at least help give our heart one of the best workouts.
Regular running helps improve circulation, reduce the risk of heart attack, combats high blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke. It also helps the battle of the bulge by boosting our metabolic rate.
Get started by signing up for a 5k or 10k –
having a target helps new runners remain focused. For more serious runners, join a club. Go to
scottishrunningguide.com for links.
PUSH THE BOAT OUT
Britain really does rule the waves – or at least we appear to be a dab hand when it comes to rowing, thanks to gold medallists Helen Glover and Heather Stanning.
David Florence is pretty handy with a canoe as well, as he proved yesterday.
Rowing works severy part of your body, arms, legs, upper back and core muscles. A rowing machine is fine, but head outdoors for some fresh air and the resistance of the water to get the best benefit.
Rowing doesn’t just get us physically fit – the sound
of water alters the wave patterns of the brain, helping us to relax.
If you fancy pursuing the sport at a serious level, then scottishrowing.org.uk has details of local clubs. Or you could always just hire a rowing boat from Edinburgh Canal Society at the Ashley Terrace boathouse and spend Sunday pottering about on the canal.
If you’re inspired by conquering the waves and heading out sailing, then that could bring extra health benefits – sea air is full of ions that help the body absorb oxygen. Edinburgh Leisure runs sailing and kayaking courses at Port Edgar Marina.