During your early school years, you likely played sports. Whether that was a physical education class or a community sports team, to some degree, some involvement in sports was required. But as we get older, we have less opportunity to try out fun new sports. Here at FitMyFoot, we believe that every adult should take a leaf out of their younger self’s book and try to learn a new sport.
Studies show that learning a new sport is beneficial for academic and professional performance, social awareness, self-esteem, stress management, neuroplasticity and of course, for your general health. In this article we’re going to explain the best way to learn a new sport according to science, to improve your health and happiness. Let’s get started.
The need for physical activity
A whopping 60 percent of American adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity. 25 percent of whom are completely sedentary. Being sedentary increases your risk of all-cause mortality, and is linked to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, chronic disease, and premature aging. In fact, an estimated two million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity; making it one of the leading causes of death globally.
It’s evident that as a society, we need to move more.
A great opportunity to move
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic having some devastating consequences, it can also be seen to have some benefits. For some, it was a nudge in the right direction. As examined in a study published last year, the lockdown inspired people to be more active. As of April 2020, “population-level interest in exercise was at an all-time high since records began”.
This trend continued, with more people than ever joining online fitness platforms like Beachbody. Beachbody, a fitness app, experienced 300-percent growth in new subscribers in 2020 alone. For some, it was an activity to appease the boredom of lockdown. For others, in the face of the virus, it was a realization that you have to look after your health. Learning a new sport is a perfect way to appease boredom and improve your health. But what is the best way to approach this successfully?
The top 5 ways to learn a new sport according to science
So now we’ve covered the why, let’s talk a little more about the how. According to research, there are certain habits you can practice to learn anything easily and effectively.
- Practice makes perfect
The most obvious one is often the most effective. Studies have consistently shown that when it comes to learning a new skill, the more time you spend practicing it, the better you’ll pick it up.
A 2016 study published by York University conducted brain scans on professional ballet dancers to understand how they learn new dances. The results showed that those who repeated their initial learning more frequently experienced increased brain activation during visualization.
What this means in essence is that the more you do it, the better your brain can visualize how to do it, and it becomes instinctive. For example, when you learn to drive a car you have to guide yourself through the different phases - turning it on, changing gears etc. But the more you drive, the less you have to think about it, because your brain does it instinctively.
- Have fun
Interestingly, studies show that the more you enjoy doing something, the more efficient your learning. A study that examined the results of neuroimaging and neurotransmitters in the brain found that when people are happier and more comfortable, their brain chemistry changes, making them more receptive to information and likely to retain it.
If you feel stressed to try and learn the new sport as quickly as possible, you are actually going to prevent it from happening. Relax, enjoy and have fun!
- Be optimistic
Whether you’re an adult or a child looking to learn a new sport, there is a shared characteristic that predicts success – optimism. Optimistic people are more likely to be successful in their endeavors. This is because their positive attitude reflects in their work ethic, with optimistic individuals more likely to overcome adversities, maintain motivation, and be persistent.
- Master the basics
It can be crushing for the ego when you try to run 10 miles but can only make it for one. When you start a new sport, it is vital to master the basics. If running is your new sport of choice, start by walking one mile. Progress this into running a mile, and so on. Slow progress allows you to master the basics.
Don’t jump ahead and get disappointed when it doesn’t work for you. Drop the ego and build a solid foundation.
- Preparation and education
You need to be prepared and educated in your new sport. Whether it’s golf, running or fly-fishing there are a few universal truths:
You need the right gear e.g. a golf club, running shoes, a fishing rod
- You need to understand what to do
And you can’t have one without the other!
You can opt to take lessons with an expert, join a team, or learn from a friend. But it’s necessary - you can’t learn by accident! Plus, if you don’t have the right sport-specific equipment, you may halt progress or cause harm.
Why you should learn a new sport
Learning a new sport enhances neuroplasticity - the brain’s ability to change and adapt, to continually support your cognitive development and performance in life. This is linked to better social skills, work performance, aging and general physical and mental wellbeing.
Aside from this, taking up a new active hobby will help you stay physically fit and healthy, which can drastically improve your quality of life.
If you’re interested in learning a new sport but don’t want to struggle through the learning process, implement these tips and you’ll be learning efficiently and effectively. Good luck!