Look at some of the health benefits that regular activity can give you.
Choosing something you really enjoy is important if the sport is one you want to continue for many years. If you dislike every minute in the pool, forcing yourself to swim may not be a good plan but playing tennis may be just the thing for you. You may like to walk, climb, play hockey or basketball or one of many other sports. You may have friends involved in a sport who introduce you to it. If you haven't yet found activities you like, keep looking!
The sports that you learn in gym class are just a sample of activities that you could do. There is no need to be on a school team or even to enjoy gym class. Personally, I did not enjoy gym class in the least and quit physical education as soon as I could in high school. However, I replaced it with competitive cycling. I had enthusiastic, supportive coaches and ended up representing Alberta on the provincial cycling team at the national level for several years.
Sports differ in the amount of time they require and the costs they have. There is a choice - most people can afford the time and costs of running or brisk walking. If you can, learn a sport that can be done individually or with few others. There will be times in your life when you will want to be active without having teams of people available.
Exercise has benefits no matter what sport you choose but there are also risks to consider. You can reduce the risks by taking the time to learn about your sport from an experienced mentor or coach.
Any sport is a combination of skill, strength and cardiovascular ability. If you do not balance these well, you may have an injury. Injuries can be sud-den and serious but the proper equipment can reduce the risks. Each sport has its own particular hazards and need for safety equipment. From in-line skating, to hockey, to snowboarding, to bicycling, most sports have equipment that will reduce your chance of being seriously injured. Be sure you use the recommended equipment properly.
Other injuries, called overuse, occur after repetitive activity. These might happen if you progress too rapidly, do not rest enough, use inappropriate technique, or continue an activity beyond your limits because of pressure from friends or adults. Your teenage bones, muscles and tendons are still growing and can be more prone to overuse injuries. It can be extremely frustrating to be side-lined because of a sports injury so take the advice of your coach and progress properly. Competitive sports make it slightly more possible to get over-use injuries due to the amount of training required.
If you develop pain, swelling or other problems you should see a health professional, usually your family doctor. Maybe you need advice on how to change your technique. If so, your doctor can suggest you talk to your coach or a sports medicine specialist.
When you start a new activity you should start slowly and gradually increase. At first, anything you are doing should be for a limited time and not too intense. Your coach can help you plan your program. The frequency of an activity will vary according to your experience, but usually it is important to have rest days scheduled every week, between active days.
Especially if you are a younger teen, it is best to participate in a variety of sports. Your strength training with weights should be minimal and the level of intensity should build up gradually. I have had patients who developed overuse injuries because they became so focused on one activity that they did not let their bodies recover. Meanwhile they did not participate in other activities. Ultimately their athletic performance suffered.
Variety usually will help your performance. I have friends who are elite cross-country skiers but even in ski season they play squash or swim because they enjoy doing those things. It is to your benefit to be active on a regular basis. The key is moderation, variety and not overdoing things.
If you have any medical conditions, asthma for example, be sure to get a medical checkup before you start a new activity. Everyone is different, so talk to your parents, your doctor, your coach or mentor if there is any question.
Competition is an important aspect of many sports but not necessary for you to get the benefits to your health. Although competition often allows you to reach higher levels of fitness and self-discipline, it also may be easier to get injured while pushing yourself harder. Any competition you decide to do must be your choice. You should not feel there is pressure for you to give a high performance. Have your own goals.
I have had friends under the pressure of competition, who have felt the need to use drugs to help them perform better. This is obviously not a healthy choice. The risks to your health of performance enhancing drugs are tremendous and must be avoided.
If you prefer to do exercise with others or want to become competitive, find a club or association related to that sport. As long as you get regular activity that raises your heart rate and enjoy what you are doing, you will be on your way to lifelong activity. This is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.
In Canada, most sports have a supervising body. These organizations can give you advice on certi-fied coaches, safety tips, events and training information.
Put time to exercise into your daily routine. Pick sports that you enjoy and you are more likely to continue with these activities throughout your life. As long as you try to get regular activity that raises your heart rate, you will be working towards a healthy lifestyle. Exercise can be the most enjoyable activity of the day. Why not do it?