Combining fun and exercise is hard, but a long, healthier life is a reward worth the sweat.
When it comes to fitness, it can be challenging just to get out the door for that morning jog. Pondering a whole lifetime of fitness can be downright intimidating! But if you find a sport you really enjoy, staying in shape is a much less daunting prospect. Here are four great sports you can stick with for the long haul while also supporting a healthy lifestyle.
A perennial favorite, running (or walk-running) requires very little equipment. The only things you need to start are a good pair of supportive running shoes and some pavement. Running is also a great choice for people who are time-crunched because you get a good workout in a short amount of time.
Get started: If you've never run before, jog for 30 seconds and then walk for 30 seconds. Keep up this cycle for 20 to 30 minutes, gradually increasing the amount of jogging time. If you need a good long-term goal, consider entering a 5K several months down the road.
Swimming gives you the same cardiovascular benefits of running, but with less stress on your joints. (On the flip side, the fact that it's not weight-bearing means it won't help you build bone density, so it's best paired with a weight-bearing activity.) Swimming also targets your upper body and helps you build nice muscle tone in your shoulders and back.
Get started: Start with one to two laps, focusing on rhythmic breathing, and then rest for a minute. Be careful not to swim too fast in the beginning. Slowly build to 20 to 30 minutes of nonstop laps.
Tennis helps improve your balance, agility and overall coordination. And consider this: A 135-pound woman playing an hour of tennis can burn 330 calories. Tennis also is a nice family activity, and anyone can learn to play.
Get started: Check out the local free tennis courts in your area, and grab a friend or family member, your racquet and some tennis balls! Keep the intensity low to start — play against someone at a similar ability level at first, to avoid straining yourself. If you want to improve your technique, check with your local YMCA, community center or health club for lessons.
Golf is becoming increasingly popular among women, who use it to do everything from unwind to broker business deals. While it's not high intensity in nature, an 18-hole golf course is between 4 and 4.5 miles long. Walk that while carrying a 45-pound golf bag, and it makes for a nice workout.
Get started: The drawback of golf is that between equipment and club memberships, it can be pricey. There's nothing wrong with tagging along with a friend or family member just to get the experience of being on the green. If you're really interested in playing, though, your best bet is to take lessons from a professional.
Always check with your physician before starting any new exercise program.