Get back in the Game!

Around the world, during certain times of the year, sports fans become riveted to their couches, set before their big screen TVs, cheering on their favorite teams as these amazing athletes play their hearts out during the adrenaline-fueled moments of games, tournaments and playoffs.

But do you ever dream about taking (or returning) to the court, hardwood, or diamond to participate in a team sport yourself, instead of going through the motions watching it on volleyball_SMP6036-460x300television in your living room or at a bar? If you grew up playing sports, you may recall fond memories of the intense practices, championship games, winning plays and the close-knit bond formed between teammates. You know how much you miss it once you stop playing. If you never played sports, then it’s not too late to join an adult sports league and get a taste of team spirit, as well as getting in some great exercise.

There’s been an emphasis placed on the importance of children playing team sports recreationally as they grow and develop, that it makes them happier, healthier and more socially adjusted, but sports aren’t just for kids. Don’t give up on the love of the game just because you graduated or have become inundated with the demands of the working world! Recreational sports holds just as much benefit for adults as they do for children. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity published a study in 2013 where researchers indicated that recreational sports not only provides a stress-reducing benefit for adults, but better physical role functioning, vitality, social functioning, mental health and life satisfaction than other forms of physical activity. The improved health benefits may result from enhanced social connectedness, social support, peer bonding and self-esteem provided by league support.

The physical benefits are greater than you might think too. The physical activity provided by team sports have been linked to the reduction of an individual’s risk of heart disease, the strengthening of bones and muscles, and overall increase in physical health. It’s also a great way to burn off calories, although the amount of which will vary depending on the sport and the intensity of the sport.

Certainly you can yield the same benefits from other physical activities, but being on a team creates an entirely different dynamic and a measure of accountability when you know your team is counting on you that keeps you active.

Joining a recreation league can provide a welcome break from your regular exercise routine. Sports like basketball, tennis, pickleball, flag football and soccer offer an amazing cardio workout that can become a great addition or supplement to your current workouts. Participating in a sport can be so much fun that you won’t think of it as exercise. And because you are involved in a sport, you’ll be inspired to keep in shape, which gives you the motivation to stick with a regular fitness routine.

Sports can be a great way to meet new people and expand upon your social network. You’ll be in the company of others with at least one common interest. By playing with them once or twice a week, you have a regular reason to get out of the house and interact with the community, and are bound to develop some great relationships over the course of time.

There are some things to keep in mind before joining an adult sports league. First, it’s good to know the difference between competitive and recreational leagues. Competitive leagues will be made up of players who are in it to win it. They may possess years of experience in their sport, perhaps having competed at high levels. Winning will be important, therefore players are expected to have excellent skills and serious attitudes. So, if you have the experience and miss the competition, join up! But if you are new to the sport or simply looking to have fun, then recreational leagues will be more your speed. This can apply to beginners looking to get their feet wet or for those who just getting back into it and want to hone their skills.

If you’re looking to find information about leagues or how to join a league, you can check out what’s offered at your local YMCA, city recreation center, fitness centers, or churches. Look within your own community to see what might be offered. Look for flyers or bulletin boards, or simply ask around! You may have friends or co-workers who might belong to a league or know of someone who does.

As to what to expect once you join, know that every league is different. Most competitive leagues will have at least one practice and one game a week. Recreational leagues usually play once a week. Formal uniforms are not the norm, but some leagues may pitch in to buy custom T-shirts. Either way, be sure to dress in comfortable clothing which allows for maximum mobility and wear appropriate footwear. There is usually a fee that comes with playing each season, and the cost can vary by location, sport, length of the season, number of games and equipment rental (if needed). These fees may cover the cost of the facility or area hosting the games or for referees and/or scorekeepers. Remember that keeping hydrated is important, so be sure to bring your own water bottle and a towel just in case.

There are adult sports leagues that cater to athletes of all levels and joining one can offer a sense of excitement and friendly competition that you may have missed or found lacking in your life. So get fit, have fun, and make some new friends. Release your inner athlete, get out there and play!



Leave Biking to the Kids … Or Not?

Ever since the training wheels came off our bicycles at a young age, we were pushed into freedom, adventure and delight, and once you learn, you never forget. But now that you’re older, like everything else in life, riding seems more complicated – by worrying about traffic or utilizing more equipment, but cycling today is not much different than those earlier days, and the activity can help you lose weight, build endurance and elevate your mood.

Physical Benefits

Cycling is a non-impact activity that is associated with improved cardiovascular fitness. It gets your heart pumping and your legs moving without the risk of pounding your joints. adults-bike-fitnessIt’s great for toning and building your muscles – calves, thighs, glutes, even your neck and shoulders. A relaxing bike ride burns more calories than an easy walk (approx. 281 calories vs. 176 calories per hour). The key to achieving optimal fitness results on a bike is all about maintaining a steady rhythm, by consistently pedaling, rather than alternating between pedaling and coasting. To do that, you need to seek out long stretches of road, ones with a low volume of traffic, if possible. A great example of this would be the Orlando Southeast Trail – a 13-mile long, 12 ft. wide trail which serves several neighborhoods, including the community of Northlake Park at Lake Nona, with safety, convenience and scenic diversity. To find trails near you, you can consult with your local bike shop or club or even find them using a website such as Trail Link.

If you’re just starting out again, it’s good to start out slowly. Commit to a minimum of two weekday rides on flat-terrain for 30 to 40 minutes for the first three to four weeks. You can always gradually increase the intensity of your ride, distance, and type of terrain you traverse on later. In the meantime, take the time to learn and master your cadence while riding (the number of revolutions of the crank per minute, counting one leg). For the average rider, somewhere between 70 and 100 rpm is a good speed to maintain while riding. And by keeping your cadence consistent, it provides steady cardiovascular training without potential harm to your joints. After the initial month period, you can begin to vary your workout by adding in intervals of quick accelerations that last anywhere between 30 seconds to five minutes or by climbing hills, both which can add strength work into your aerobic ride.

Mental Health Benefits

Studies have shown that cycling can lead to improvements in your mental health. In the time spent turning the crank, rich, new capillary beds develop within your brain, which means more oxygen and nutrients generated to help it work. You also force more nerve cells to ignite which intensifies the creation of proteins which double or triple the production of neurons, literally building your brain. Neurotransmitters are also then released, allowing brain cells to communicate with each other for improved functioning, sharper memory skills, higher concentration/problem solving ability, and more fluid thinking. One study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research showed that people had completed memory, reasoning, and planning tests faster and scored higher after 30 minutes of pedaling on a stationary bike than they did before they rode.

Cycling has been linked to mood elevation, anxiety relief, and an increase in your stress resistance, all by boosting the levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine and other mood-lifting chemicals like endorphins and cannabinoids. A recent study suggests that 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic riding, at roughly 75 percent of your maximum heart rate, three to five times a week can achieve this effect. Riding your bike on a regular basis helps to keep your levels of adrenaline and cortisol in check, which means you’ll feel less stress and capable of bouncing back from anxiety-filled situations more easily.

Tips on Better Cycling

When choosing the right bike for you, it isn’t about the brand or model, but the fit. And it’s not just about having the bike seat at hip-height. Other variables matter, such as the tilt of your seat, the height of your handlebars, and how far forward you have to reach to grasp the pegs, all of which affect where pressure is felt on the body. If you can, get a professional bike fitting done at a cycling shop. Some offer free fittings with new bike purchases or have fit services available for older bikes.

Safety should be a critical component in cycling. In low-light conditions, at minimum, be sure to wear bright-colored, reflective clothing and put reflective tape on your bike and helmet. The helmet itself should also be brightly-colored, fit snugly and meet all required safety standards. If you want to go the extra mile, you can install a strong headlight and a strobe-type, red blinking light to affix to the back of the bike. Avoid riding at night.

Use good road sense – ride with traffic, give right of way to vehicles and pedestrians, use hand signals and obey signs. Stay out of drivers’ blind spots and make eye contact with them as you pull into an intersection or make a turn, so they know your intentions and you know that they’ve seen you. Don’t ride side-by-side with another cyclist and be vigilant for road hazards.

As you get used to cycling for long distances, learn to have fun with it. Plan a destination ride to the next town over where there’s a great lunch-spot or plan a scenic road trip complete with a picnic spot. Part of the joy of cycling is to ride along with others. Recruit friends or family members or try joining a bike shop or club ride. Just be sure to look for outings that are tailored for beginners at first.

Cycling is one of the easiest ways to exercise, helps to improve cardiovascular fitness, builds stamina, increases muscle tone and improves heart and mental health. You can ride almost anywhere, at any time of the year, and without spending a fortune. And all you need is a bike, a half-hour here or there, and the confidence and the drive to improve your life.

Community Fitness Classes

As kids, we could not wait to get together to play with our friends after school, on weekends or during hot summer days. As teens, our world seemed to revolve around our friends and our choice of activities were dictated by the collective. As adults, we still enjoy being active in the company of friends, shape-up-and-hvchbut may not always feel as if we have the time to do so. Group exercise is a way that provides us with the opportunity to feel vital again while being physically active with others.

Group exercise involves a gathering of individuals in a class-like setting where they perform designed and structured exercise led by an instructor or fitness professional. There are many forms of group exercise – aerobics, dance, core & muscle conditioning, Pilates, step, kickboxing, sculpting, cycling and boot camp, to name a few. Your choice of classes can depend on the location you attend and the amount of time you have.

We’ve been receiving the message loud and clear in recent years, whether from our doctors or the media, about the urgency to exercise and maintain good fitness, but trying to figure out a range of exercises that would provide optimal benefits for your health can be daunting when leading a busy life. When people exercise on their own, they may skip portions of a workout they know little about or are not their favorite to perform. Group exercise offers a workout for all levels, ranging from beginner to advanced, as the instructor designs the workout to appropriate and effective levels to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness. This typically includes a warm-up session, cool down session, flexibility and conditioning portions. So individuals are not required to have any prior exercise knowledge or experience, know which machines to use or for how long. The fitness instructor serves as a guide to participants, a resource, and a cheerleader, encouraging them in class and to take up other healthy behaviors outside of class.

There are group exercise facilities that are aware of the limited time you may have in your schedule. To support that, they often offer a consistent schedule, some with only 30- to 45-minute classes, to allow you to choose a time that best fits into your daily life, making it easier to commit. If a variety of class formats are offered in your community, feel free to explore them all. An exposure to different instructor styles, music selection, and interaction with other participants may help to keep your motivation and interest high.

A great example of this can be found over at the gated community of Villas at Nocatee, where residents benefit from having access to Nocatee’s Fitness Club (which serves all of Nocatee’s neighborhoods), a 5,000 square-foot facility that provides a wide range of group exercise classes, personal training and even a twice-a-month fitness orientation to teach residents about proper equipment usage. Their group exercise instructor team covers a broad spectrum of exercise – from circuit training to core & cardio, Pilates to Zumba, Yoga to AquaFit – all designed to target strength building, muscular endurance and interval training.

Lastly, group exercise appeals to many people because of its diversity. Group exercise classes originally started out as exercise choreographed to music, hosted inside a fitness facility. While this format still exists, there are many non-traditional classes, some even hosted outdoors – boot camps at the local park, yoga at the beach, bicycling or hiking on trails, etc. Regardless of your preference, what is most important is to move. Group exercise offers a social and fun environment, safe and effectively designed workouts, a consistent exercise schedule and an accountability factor, allowing you to simply show up with a positive attitude and have fun!