Playing sports, either indoors or in the great outdoors, offers numerous benefits beyond the obvious physical perks.
We all know taking part in cycling, competitive running, football, basketball, swimming, baseball, and more helps develop more muscular definition, increase endurance, and lose weight. Obviously, if you're playing outside, you'll get to enjoy fresh air, soak up sunlight (to produce more vitamin D), and play on varied terrain.
Yet what else do sports do for you?
Join us as we take a look at the various benefits of getting yourself out there …
You can Improve your Social Skills
Socializing is a major aspect of most sports. At any age, from kindergarten to adulthood, taking part in sport requires you to play as part of a team or against at least one other opponent.
For example, on a basketball team, you have to figure out who will play which position, who will mark which opposing player etc. This demands you be able to decide which role suits you best, which will suit others best, and generally be willing to compromise to maintain a fluid, effective team.
Even if you’re playing one-on-one, you have to be willing to admit to mistakes, accept losing, and maintain a friendly atmosphere.
The more you spend time with people on your own team and your opponent’s side, the better your social skills will be.
This is especially helpful if you need to meet new people or want to work on your communication skills.
You can Combat Stress and Depression
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), seven in 10 adults across the USA suffer from stress or anxiety on a daily basis.
They go on to point out that exercise can help to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. How? It produces endorphins, those all-important feel-good chemicals, which helps to lift your mood.
This also helps to improve your quality of sleep, which in turn leads to feeling better overall. Their research also indicates that as little as five minutes’ worth of aerobic exercise has the power to generate anti-anxiety effects.
As anyone who experiences stress, anxiety, and/or depression on a regular basis will know, these have an incredibly powerful effect on your ability to live. Playing sports is not a cure, but it has been shown to at least help.
You can Improve your Self-Confidence
Just as playing sports has the power to improve your social skills and lift your mood, it also gives you a confidence boost.
As you develop in your chosen sport (or sports), you’ll start to learn new skills, discover abilities you never thought yourself capable of, and realize that you’re able to accomplish goals you might have thought beyond your reach. You may find yourself leading a team as you never have, or proving to be more useful than ever before.
You’re also likely to find yourself growing as a person, and having a better outlook on your own capabilities. This can carry outside of the sports hall and into your daily life, helping to improve your performance at work and your personal pursuits.
Learning a new sport can be daunting, as can getting involved in exercise following a period of inactivity. You’re likely to feel self-conscious or intimidated. However, the important thing is to remember that everyone has to start somewhere, even world-class athletes.
Just focus on what you want to achieve from taking part, and take it one session at a time.
The USA is one of the world’s greatest countries for camping.
We can all agree on that, can’t we? With a wealth of stunning national parks, incredible wildlife, and areas rich with cultural value, the States offers an amazing range of camping options.
While many of us prefer to go beyond our own borders for our vacations, the great American camping trip is a tradition millions of families enjoy every year. Whether you’re looking to try it with your loved one, your kids, or solo, join us for a look at some of our most beautiful campsites!
Acadia National Park (Maine)
Acadia National Park is based on Mount Desert Island, and provides visitors with three fantastic campsites. Blackwoods is placed within comfortable range of Bar Harbor, the island’s center). Meanwhile, Seawall is the site of choice for visitors craving a more authentically-rustic camping experience.
Last but not least, Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Woods is close to the peninsula, offering all the picturesque views you’d expect.
Green Mountain National Forest (Vermont)
The mere mention of Vermont is enough to get plenty of hearts racing, and its Green Mountain National Forest is truly breathtaking.
There are multiple different campsites throughout, but you’ll have to go without your mod cons: there’s no electricity to charge your phones and tablets. Each of these is developed though, and you’re surrounded by plenty of impressive views.
During the day, you can take part in hiking, canoeing, and other activities. You may need to book a space, depending on the campsite you have in mind, so do inquire to avoid disappointment.
White Mountain National Forest (New Hampshire)
New Hampshire’s home to a wealth of unforgettable sights, and you’ll find many of them in its White Mountain National Forest. Visit in the fall to see some astounding colors and enjoy crisp, clear air.
There are around 800 different campsites spread across 24 drive-in zones, but some of the strongest are in the northern part. If you’re looking to stay in one of the more modern, developed sites, you’ll have to make a reservation.
Fancy going a little more old-school? Tent camping outside of specific campsites is permitted, but there are some absolute no-camping spots, so be careful not to pitch-up in a forbidden zone.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park (Pennsylvania)
Pine Grove Furnace State Park has a range of 70 campsites, for tents and trailers, but it’s recommended to book ahead of time (you can do this almost a full year in advance, to guarantee a spot). You can even take advantage of electricity and water for a more luxurious experience.
What can you do during the day? Well, the legendary Appalachian Trail runs throughout the park’s forest, but only the most dedicated and hardy manage to walk the full 2,000 mile-plus hike. So, don’t feel too downhearted if you only do a mile or two instead!
No hiking overnight is allowed, though, so limit your walking-time to daylight hours only.
So, that’s it! We hope we’ve given you some useful inspiration and ideas for your next camping trip. There’s lots to enjoy in our most beautiful parks, and roughing it in the great outdoors is an unforgettable experience for year-round vacations.
While some of us love to get outdoors during winter, snuggling under scarves and gloves, others retreat inside instead.
There’s no denying that going for a run at dawn takes a little more willpower in winter than it does in warmer months, and hiking endless trails is certainly tougher. But there’s no reason to let winter put you off the outdoors activities you love.
In fact, it might even do you the world of good: research shows that exposure to cold weather offers various health benefits. Let’s take a closer look …
Cold Could Be Key to a Speedier Metabolism
Being outside in cold weather gives you a faster metabolism. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s complicated. You may not be able to burn off those Christmas treats by simply standing in your back yard for 10 minutes, or adopt an all-chocolate diet because you ice-skate for an hour a day.
Still, while cold weather’s not a cure for storing fat, it has been shown to increase the speed of your metabolism. The reason? It activates the body’s ‘brown’ fat, which then generates heat through burning calories.
So, you can burn more calories by spending time outdoors, but be careful not to over-expose yourself to low temperatures. A hike on a snowy trail, building a snowman, or going for a run in chilly weather can lead to positive effects.
Your Heart will Get Stronger
If you have a heart condition or any other cardiovascular issues, prolonged exposure to the cold can be a danger, due to the extra effort your heart makes in lower temperatures. The additional stress of pumping blood around the body should be avoided for certain people.
However, for those in good health, regular exercise in cold weather can make the heart even stronger. This may help it cope with tougher workouts as you increase your distance run or weight lifted.
Combat Low Moods and Stress
While plenty of us love winter, Christmas, and everything the season brings, others struggle.
This is understandable. Low temperatures, rainfall (increasing flood risks in certain areas), strong winds (potentially damaging properties), and the financial demands of Christmas can all get too much for even the jolliest person.
Getting outside for a run, a walk, a hike, a bike ride, a spot of skiing, or even just playing in the snow with your kids or pets can release much-needed endorphins. These are the body’s feel-good chemicals, and even just a little exercise will lift your mood.
Exercise is often recommended for people struggling with stress and depression, so give it a try if you’re facing difficulties.
Exercising outdoors is good for you throughout the year, but getting out in the fresh air during winter might just be better for you than you imagine. Consider taking up a new sport, get into hiking to explore your nearest beauty-sports, or just spend time playing outside with the family.
It’s very easy to stay on the couch in the colder months, watching movies and snacking, but this isn’t ideal for your health. Even the smallest, briefest activity can help your body stay in good condition during winter. Give it a go – you may just love it.
Booked your first ski vacation?
You may well feel daunted by the prospect of heading up into the mountains, surrounded by people who have more experience skiing than you.
You shouldn’t let this overwhelm you, though. Everyone is a beginner at one time or another. Your first ski vacation should be an unforgettable experience you’ll want to repeat again and again.
There are certain things you should do on your first skiing trip to make it all it can be – let’s take a look …
Don’t be Afraid to Actually Ski
Some people might like the idea of a skiing vacation, but feel too intimidated or afraid to actually ski.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this. You can absolutely spend time relaxing at the lodge, walking through the beautiful surroundings, maybe even head down to the local town.
However, if you go all that way and let fear keep you off those skis, you may regret it. Consider taking lessons with an instructor, and let a trusted friend or family-member help you – you may just be surprised by how much you like it.
In some resorts, you may be able to hire a pair of snowshoes and go exploring.
This is a terrific way to explore your alpine environment, get some exercise, and do something a little different.
Snowshoeing takes some getting used to, and can leave you feeling tired faster than you expect, but it’s an experience everyone visiting a ski resort should try.
Step onto a Snowboard Instead
You may be able to try snowboarding at your alpine resort. If you get the chance to, do it!
This is a totally different discipline to skiing. First of all, you have no poles to help, and need a strong sense of balance to stay upright. You’ll also develop your core control as you twist and turn to guide yourself along the slopes.
Without doubt, snowboarding is one of the coolest of all winter sports, and can add a faster, more exhilarating dimension to your first ski vacation. If you’ve never tried it before, take snowboarding lessons and invest in decent gear.
Let Yourself be Pampered
Had enough skiing and/or snowboarding? It’s time to relax at the lodge and enjoy a taste of luxury.
Quality resorts provide spa treatments for their guests, ranging from head-massages and pedicures to more exotic treats, such as hot-stone massages.
This can help you relax and unwind, but also ensures your body gets a little care after being out in the cold for hours on end. You may prefer this if you find yourself falling or picking up more bumps and scrapes than you would like.
Strap on your Skates
Ice skating is available at various ski resorts, and allows you to get away from the mountains for a while. If this is your first time, it’s a fun new skill to learn (along with skiing and snowboarding), and is a great way to meet new people.
No matter which ski resort you head to, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the alpine environment or the range of activities on offer. Throw yourself into the atmosphere, pack quality accessories and equipment to keep yourself safe, and remember to have a blast!
Did you find yourself stuck for meal ideas on your last camping vacation?
Eating delicious, hot, nourishing food while in America’s backyard can be tricky. After all, you only have limited space in your car, backpack, and tents – can you really pack a hefty selection of gourmet dishes along with the other essentials?
Well, yes. Just because you’re away from the luxuries of everyday life, doesn’t mean you have to survive on junk food or forage for nuts out in the woods. Take a couple of saucepans (one small, one large), a frying pan, as many plates and bowls as you’ll need, as well as a stove and fuel (unless you plan to start your own fires).
With your gear set, here’s a range of ideas to help you eat well when away from home …
Potato cakes are pretty quick and simple to make, and they taste amazing. You can prepare these for any meal, though they probably work best on the side of fried veg for dinner.
All you need to do is boil your potatoes over your stove or campfire, and then mash them. Add a single egg, as well as any seasoning you have with you, and then introduce a little flour to the mix.
Combine it all together, and then shape the potatoes into plump, round shapes. You just need to fry them for a while, until they turn a satisfying golden-brown color, and then serve.
Burning food on a stove or campfire is pretty easy to do, so don’t be too disturbed if you end up with a couple of cakes resembling coal.
Cheesy Nachos and Veg
This may sound like something of a cop-out, but it’s actually a fairly complete meal (thanks mainly to the presence of your preferred vegetables).
Start by cutting your veggies – this may be mushrooms, peppers, chili, jalapeno, onion, courgette, carrots, or anything else you like. Fry these in a pan, and add some salsa. Mix it all up.
If you’ve a casserole dish to hand, put your nachos inside and mix the saucy veggies in with it. Mix it up. Sprinkle some cheese on top, place the lid, and then put hot coals on the top so it heats from the top down, melting the cheese nicely.
No casserole dish? Use a cast iron skillet, or wrap the nachos with sauce up in foil to heat over your fire.
Healthy, Hearty Pasta
Pasta works beautifully on camping vacations. You can cook it in batches, keep it in airtight containers, and dip into it over a few days.
For a delicious lunch or dinner, boil your pasta over your stove or campfire, and then add plenty of chopped vegetables. Tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, asparagus, corn, and anything else you like will bring plenty of flavor and create a healthy dish.
Mix in a can of chopped tomatoes or condensed soup (with a little water or milk). Let it heat for a while, so the veg cooks thoroughly, and then top with some cheese or herbs.
Safety is paramount when cooking on a campsite. Certain spots will have their own facilities, but if you’re looking to go back to basics, cooking at your own space is pretty authentic.
Don’t make fires near the woods or your tent. Don’t leave children unsupervised around the fire. Ensure all knives and sharp utensils are kept out of sight from young kids.
As long as you stay safe, there’s no reason cooking can’t be fun, creative, and help to make your camping trip even better. Make sure you have all the equipment and essentials you need before heading out.
Hiking can be a relaxing, healthy pastime that takes you along some picturesque trails.
On the other hand, it can also be a pulse-pounding, fear-inducing, death-defying walk on the wild side.
Depending on your experience, sense of adventure, and ability to cope with extreme heights, some of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails may appeal to you. If you’ve been looking for a new challenge to inject a little more zest into your walking, consider visiting any of these five trails during your next vacation …
Mount Huashan (China)
Just looking at hikers’ snapshots of this trail is enough to induce an immense terror of heights in anyone.
Mount Huashan is based close to China’s Huayin, and offers plenty of spectacular views – provided you can cope with the challenge, of course. There are various trails leading to the mountain’s five summits, and the number of tourists choosing to walk them led to a much-needed reinforcement-operation.
The trails are more secure than they were, but dozens of fatal falls are still believed to occur each year.
This is unsurprising, when parts of a trail are simply wooden boards bolted to the side of the mountain.
There are also parts boasting such intimidating names as Black Dragon Ridge and Hundred-Foot Crevice.
Taghia Trail (Morocco)
Next time you head to Morocco, be sure to try hiking the Taghia trail, which runs around the spectacular mountain, Oujdad.
You need to tread carefully here, as there are only rocks and logs leading you along solid wall. While these are secure and many people walk this trail safely, the narrow walkways and sheer drops are enough to put even the most seasoned hikers off.
El Caminito del Rey (Spain)
‘Little King’s Path’ is a definite challenge, with a walkway just three feet wide to tread. This is based more than 300 feet up from a river running beneath,
For some time, this was known as one of the most dangerous trails on Earth, due to its state of deterioration. In 2014, the trail reopened after restoration work was completed, and it’s now safer than it was.
However, the narrowness of certain parts and the brutal drops mean this is still a no-no for people likely to be overwhelmed.
Huayna Picchu Trail (Peru)
Peru’s Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most iconic sites, but hiking all the way up there is a challenge for even the hardiest hiker.
Huyana Picchu, the trail running up to the Incan spot, runs up to around 1,000 feet. It’s also so narrow and steep that you access is prohibited during most of the country’s rainy season.
While the reward for reaching the top is unquestionably worthwhile, the danger the trail poses is sure to put many of us off.
Bright Angel Trail (Arizona)
The Bright Angel Trail is based in the beautiful Grand Canyon National Park, and runs for more than eight miles.
Over the years, hikers have been at risk of flash floods, rockfall, unbearable heat, and even drowning. It is incredibly popular, but hikers are at risk without the proper gear and care.
When embarking on one of these trails, or any hike, having the right equipment is vital. Being under-prepared poses numerous risks, not least dehydration and extreme hunger if you pack too-little supplies.
You should make sure you have waterproof backpacks to keep your essentials dry in wet conditions, though these will also offer protection should your bag fall into water.
Hiking is a terrific way to stay fit and see the world, but do your research before trying trails known to be dangerous.