June 1, 2022

Good Sports

Being fit requires more than just exercise; it also requires a healthful lifestyle.

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel

Q: Is playing sports a good way to get fit?

A: Getting “fit” may mean different things to different people, so let’s get on the same page. To be “fit” means that you have enough strength, endurance, and flexibility to do everything that your normal day requires, and that you have reserve capacity to get through a typical crisis, an emergency, or an additional desired activity (such as climbing a flight of stairs when the elevator is out of service or climbing a hill to see a spectacular view). To the athlete, getting “fit” may mean preparing for a triathlon or climbing to the summit of a challenging mountain. So who you are and what you aspire to achieve make a difference.

Whatever the situation, however, getting fit requires movement and a “load” that you work against or carry (e.g., your body weight is considered a “load”). As you regularly repeat the activity with more or faster movement and with greater load, you become more “fit.” Whoever you are, though, being fit requires more than just exercise; it also requires a healthful lifestyle that accommodates the level of activity that’s needed.

Most sports involve movement and “load,” so if practiced regularly, they will improve fitness. Aerobic sports cause the heart to beat faster. Enjoying them regularly strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and increases lung capacity. These together improve the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to all the cells. Adding load on the muscles (e.g., weights, basketball, baseball bat, water for swimming) improves total fitness, strengthening bones, tendons, and ligaments and increasing lean-muscle mass, benefiting weight management.

You don’t have to be a star athlete to engage in sports for fun and fitness. Twenty to 30 minutes of a low-intensity sport may be a healthy starting point for sedentary adults. Swimming , cycling , bowling, pickleball, rowing, and kayaking all can be done at low intensity to start and increased as you go. Table tennis and pickleball are the lowest cardio-intensity workouts of the racket sports. You can also do a search on the Internet for other examples of low-impact, no-contact, and variable-intensity sports.

Here are some suggestions when choosing a sport:

  • Choose from among sports that you like and will likely stick with, are accessible, are easy to learn and engage in, and are not too costly.
  • Choose a sport that’s at the level of fitness you want to achieve.
  • Consider the risks involved, and check with your doctor before you start.
  • Avoid violent or highly competitive sports.
  • Learn how to play appropriately to avoid unnecessary injury.
  • Follow the safety rules.
  • Get together with sports partners.
  • Enjoy and increase your exertion level comfortably over time.
  • Plan on at least one full rest day each week, depending on the sport. More isn’t necessarily better.
  • Sore muscles, fatigue, sleeping issues, reduced performance, emotional changes, or pain may be signalling you to stop or slow down.

Enjoying a friendly sport safely with friends and family is a good way to get fit!

Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.