The weather’s really getting better and the cold dark Winter is but a distant memory. So with that in mind, we’ve found some of the most enjoyable, unique and healthy outdoor sports and activities to get stuck into during the coming months.
This interesting sport was invented with the specific intention of being played by mixed teams. In 1902 Dutch schoolmaster Nico Broekhuysen blended elements of netball and basketball to create the sport of Korfball, so both boys and girls in his class could play together on a level footing. The sport has an international following and somewhat unsurprisingly the Netherlands has dominated the world championships over the years.
Teams are made up of eight players (four men, four women) and points are scored by getting a ball, about the size and weight of a football, into a basket in the opponent’s half. A key rule of the game states that only players of the same gender are allowed to mark each other, thereby eliminating the chances of superior height or power dominating the game and enforcing the need for a mixed gender team. The court is split in two and the team is also equally split between those who play in the attacking half and those in the defending half – however, once two goals have been scored, the attack and defence must swap. This means that all players have to play their part in every aspect of the game.
Korfball is a great sport for getting fit and healthy because it involves lots of fast paced movement, an upper body workout with the passing and shooting, while also helping improve your tactical awareness in team sports.
While not strictly speaking a mixed-gender sport, Ultimate Frisbee (actually now referred to as Ultimate because of trademark issues) is often enjoyed by both men and women playing on the same team. One of the main attractions is that it’s fairly easy for beginners to get into but can become very skilful and sophisticated when practiced to the highest standard.
The aim is, get the flying disc into your opponent’s end zone by throwing it to a player who is in the area, without it touching the ground or getting intercepted by the opposition. Teams are made up of seven players all of whom are free to roam the playing area – roughly the size of a football pitch. They pass the Frisbee using various throwing techniques but no one is allowed to run with the disk. The game is in some ways like a non contact, technologically assisted combination of American Football and Netball.
Often referred to simply as “touch”, this version of rugby is derived from the league code of the game. Teams are made up of anywhere between eight and 14 players and can, as with the above sports, be played by mixed teams. Essentially a non-contact sport, touch can get fast and furious because many of the attacking tactics used in the full game can be applied.
To score a point teams need to touch the ball down over their opponent’s try line. Players can run with the ball until they are touched at which point they must stop and roll the ball back to their team to start play again. The minimum of force must be used in performing the touch, which is why the game is great for being played by both genders. Attacking players cannot get in front of their teammates and the ball must be passed laterally or backwards – this means there’s a lot of running and tactical skill involved.
Touch rugby is a perfect outside sport for the warmer months because it makes use of outdoor spaces, which is great if people are looking to get fit and healthy.
While not vigorously active like the other sports on this list, Petanque, or boules as it’s sometimes called, is a relaxing healthy alternative for those in search a more sedate way of keeping fit or healthy.
The invention of the game is a hotly disputed topic, with many clubs in the south of France claiming its creation. What is widely accepted is that modern Petanque did derive from Jeu de Provençal and as such the international governing body is based in France. The beauty of Petanque is that it can be played by almost anyone from young to old. Added to this it’s an outdoor game, which means plenty of fresh air.
Players usually play in teams and aim to underarm throw their heavier, usually metal, boule closest to a smaller jack ball within a set playing space – often on gravel or rough ground. It can be played as a relaxing and enjoyable game or even up to ferociously competitive world class standard. What it may lack in physicality it more than makes up for in judgement and skill – newcomers to the game are often taken aback by how fiendishly difficult it can be to be accurate when lobbing the ball.
Nordic Walking has recently gained considerable popularity, as it seamlessly combines an all body workout with significant cardio vascular exertion. The sport was invented as a means of enabling Nordic skiers to be able to train during summer months, too maintain fitness and avoid injury. It is essentially a hybrid of hill walking that uses specially designed ski poles to help propel the walker along. The health benefits are many including reports that hip, knee and foot pain being reduced in practitioners.
Fans of the sport say that by using the poles and learning the correct technique they are able to power themselves along at a greater lick than with normal hiking, while the support offered by the poles means that it can feel like less effort is being made.
In the UK there are plenty of Nordic Walking clubs and newcomers to the sport are strongly advised to seek out an instructor for their first few sessions in order to learn the correct technique, as this will mean the walker can get all the health benefits the sport can offer, while avoiding injury.
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Jonathan is a freelance writer who enjoys lots of different sporting activities