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In fitness, a change is much better than a rest. Finding a new sport you can really love tests body and brain. “As we get older, a great approach is to focus on activities that are playful,” says personal trainer Nicole Glor, creator of The Slimnastics Workout. “When you find a sport that allows you to socialize with your friends while challenging yourself, you’re more likely to stick with it.” It’s also good to find people who are also learning, and playing, at your pace—and to get instruction from teachers who like to work with newbies who are also grown-ups.
Agility sport that has very passionate followers.
The benefits: All racquet sports are social, competitive, and great for agility and hand-eye coordination, which are important to exercise as we age. Racquetball is easier to learn than squash—bigger racquet and ball—but squash is actually a slower game, relying on finesse once you get the basics.
Squash involves light activity and bursts of all-out effort, keys for burning fat and increasing overall fitness. “You can play singles or less intense doubles and you can play year-round in any weather,” says exercise physiologist and author Tom Holland.
Get started: First step is finding a beginner-friendly local club or fitness facility that offers lessons. Ussquash.com’s find-a-club search tool is a good place to start. Because squash is a sport often played against a regular competitor, it’s a good one to take up with a buddy. Never play without eye-saving goggles.
Everyone literally has to pull together, so it’s a real group effort.
The benefits: When you’re pulling an oar through the water while simultaneously pushing on a boat’s footplate, you’re working muscles and placing weight on bones, strengthening both. And it’s not unusual to see older rowers: About a quarter of competitors in Boston’s famous Head of the Charles Regatta are over 50.
Get started: Holland recommends you recruit some friends and then take indoor rowing classes at a local gym to learn proper technique. “Rowing is a more complex full-body activity than most think. You want to ensure you have proper form.” Next stop, local clubs and instructors (usrowing.com has a learn-to-row resource). Bonus: almost no gear to buy; you can rent the boat and oars.
Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP)
Hot but zen-like sport ideal for anyone who loves water and nature, and it’s low-impact.
The benefits: SUP helps build balance and coordination, key factors in preventing injury as you age. It’s also a full-body workout that strengthens your core, arms, back and legs.
Get started: SUP rental outfits—most with lessons— are now just about anywhere there’s water, including lakes (look for kayak and canoe rental shops, which also carry SUPs). Even if you’re not near water, many local gyms now have SUP exercise machines.
You’re never too old for a bit of excitement, and you can start (and stay) indoors if you like.
The benefits: “Rock climbing is great because it gives you an adrenaline rush,” says personal trainer Glor. “And you can do it in any weather if you’re at a climbing gym, and bring friends so you can cheer each other on.” Don’t worry if you can’t do a pull-up: Bouldering, where you stay close to the ground and move horizontally more than vertically, is a great way to start.
Get started: Go to indoorclimbing.com to find a gym near you. They provide shoes, harnesses, and anything else you might need. Most trainers can then connect you to outdoor enthusiasts and teachers, when you’re ready.
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