Summer is the season to get out, break a sweat and shed some of the accumulated baggage that’s been depressing your scales since last winter. We all talk about getting more exercise as part of a healthier lifestyle, but then we let those necessary appointments and unexpected commitments get in the way. You don’t have to read a scientific study to instinctively know that a decline in physical activity as we age can also impact our mental sharpness and overall spiritual well-being.
So what’s the solution to this challenge? One way is to join a team or club so that those stimulating activities become a part of your schedule and a commitment that you’ll look forward to keeping.
Hitting the Trails
A great way to start is by joining a walking, jogging, hiking or bike riding club. Check with the staff at your community clubhouse or local recreation center to see if one already exists; if not, get them to post a notice at the facility or on their website seeking members to start one. You may well find that you’ve done yourself and your neighbors a favor by turning a formerly solitary activity into a social routine.
Softball is a sport that you and your partner can participate in together by joining one of the growing number of age-appropriate leagues created by town and county recreation departments. There are often both competitive and “fun” co-ed leagues with game schedules in the summer, fall and spring. If you prefer indoor strikes and your town has a bowling alley, it almost certainly will have a league for mature bowlers.
The occasional round of golf or tennis match is definitely healthy, but you’ll improve your skills and have more fun if you sign up for a men’s, women’s or mixed-players’ league. Not only will the inter-league competition keep you fit, but many groups field teams to challenge others based at nearby courses and courts. If you haven’t tried pickleball yet, you’ll find that this popular new racquet sport offers a good workout that’s a bit less taxing than traditional tennis.
Summer is the high season for water sports like sailing, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. If you want to check it out before making a big equipment investment, you’ll find that many areas have instructional programs and expert-guided outings to give you a taste of what could well become your new favorite warm-weather activity. Likewise, community pools and swim centers often have aquatic exercise programs and even competitive leagues for the young at heart.
Still haven’t found your workout calling? Then contact your local Habitat for Humanity chapter and put your handy skills to work helping a deserving family. Or check to see if your area has established a community garden where you can get your hands dirty and grow fresh produce that’s often donated to local food banks.
If you prefer to get your exercise with a twist (or a trot), grab your partner and join a dance club to learn some new moves and make some new friends. Don’t limit yourself to just physical activities—a mind is a terrible thing to waste at any age. Along with a new workout program, join up with other like-minded folks to keep your brain in shape. There are writers’ groups and book clubs that offer lively discussions and guest lecturers. Chess, backgammon and bridge clubs can be both fun and competitive. Sewing, needlepoint and woodworking clubs often have group projects where members can learn new techniques from each other. If you’ve ever wanted to be a gourmet cook, a painter or a sculptor, there’s probably a class for that at a nearby community college, along with dozens of others that just might expand your horizons and add to your circle of friends.
One final note if you’re planning on retirement or relocation: Ask about the teams and clubs that are available at the communities you visit. Not every activity that might interest you is listed in a brochure or on a website. It’s possible that a new group may have recently formed or is just waiting for a leader like you to get it up and running.
By Sam Crawford
Previously published in the 2015 Summer Issue.