How to take up a new sport as an adult

Sports, fitness and woman waiting in tennis, match and game on a court for retirement cardio. Exercise, practice and senior player in sport, training and learning for physical activity or hobby
With Wimbledon underway, Brits are keen to take up tennis. (Getty Images)

If you’re keen on picking up a new sport, you’re far from alone - new research from NEXT shows that 74% of Brits would take up a new sport in adulthood.

However, many people find it intimidating to try something new, particularly as adults. As a child, it’s easy to get into a new sporting activity at school and with friends, but adults might be a bit more cautious.

Nevertheless, we’re in for a summer of sport and interest in taking up sports like swimming, tennis, golf, and football has increased. The survey conducted by NEXT found that swimming is the most popular sport among British adults, followed by tennis (20%), golf (19%), and football (12%).

It comes as Wimbledon and the 2024 Euros are underway, and anticipation for the Olympic Games in Paris is building ahead of the 26 July start.

This year’s Wimbledon saw Andy Murray play the last match of his career, bringing an end to his two decades on the courts. Elsewhere, the England team has made it to the semi-finals of the 2024 Euros after beating Switzerland last week, with Brits giddy about the prospect that football is coming home this year.

Swimmer on a starting block
Swimming is the most popular sport that British adults are keen to take up this year. (Getty Images)

All the excitement around sports has drummed up seasonal interest among the general public. Professional tennis coach George Thomas commented on the findings from NEXT and said: "Big sporting events often have a significant impact on people's engagement with different sports.

"For example, during the summer months, there is always a waiting list for tennis lessons as people look to take up the sport during Wimbledon. However, interest tends to decline as the weather turns colder and winter approaches."

As the build-up to the summer of sport continues, Thomas explains why adults are reluctant to take up a new sport, and gives his top tips on how to make it work for you.

As a kid, getting into sports can often feel easy and exciting. Muscle pain doesn’t really exist yet and it’s easier to bounce back from an injury. But as an adult with changed bodies and new aches and pains to consider, getting involved in sports might take a lot more consideration.

Thomas said: "Compared to children, adults may experience a decline in physical capabilities such as endurance and flexibility, making it harder to learn new skills.

"They are also more aware of the risk of injury and tend to be more cautious about starting a new sport. Recovery from physical activity also takes longer for adults, which can limit their progress.

"Unlike children, who might participate in several sports simultaneously, adults typically stick to activities they already enjoy and can fit into their schedules. Finding time for a completely new sport can be challenging."

Two senior men greeting each other with fist bump on tennis court
Getting into a new sport as an adult might seem intimidating at first, but there are plenty of benefits to be reaped. (Getty Images)

Taking the first step to join a class or group in order to learn a new sport is intimidating for many people - but once you’re over that hurdle, the fun can begin! It can be easier to do this if you recruit a friend to join the group with you.

“Adults often have a significant fear of failure, especially in front of their peers, which may prevent them from trying anything outside of their comfort zone,” Thomas said. “They might also lack self-confidence, particularly in group settings where they tend to compare their abilities to others.

“My advice to adults starting a new sport is to surround yourself with supportive people. Consider bringing someone with you like a partner as this will provide a familiar face in the group. Also ensuring that the group you join is a good fit for you will help, just remember that everyone else is in the same situation, even if some progress faster than others.”

He added that it is important to find the right coach who can help you feel welcome and tailor the session according to everyone’s needs, including yours.

Portrait of smiling, senior soccer players
Starting anything with a friend is a good idea, especially a group sport. (Getty Images)

Oftentimes, people take up a new sport and find that they absolutely love it. But life can get in the way, from time constraints to bad weather, or perhaps even feeling like you’re stuck in the same place.

Thomas’s advice is to stick with it anyway, and you might surprise yourself. "Sports like tennis are very challenging to master. While they might seem simple on TV, the fundamental skills needed will take time to develop and are unlikely to appear overnight. It's all about repetition.

"It takes an average of 400 reps to learn a new skill and around 4,000 reps to overcome a bad habit. So the key is to listen to your coach, follow their advice, and try to avoid forming bad habits, as they will hinder your progress,” he added.

"When you start a new sport, commit to a series of sessions. If you have the opportunity to sign up for 10 or more sessions, do it, as this commitment will help you stick with the sport."

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