Top 5 Leisure Activities For Unsung Health Benefits
Few would argue with New Zealand’s reputation as a healthy and prosperous nation. A 2015 study of 20 nations ranked New Zealand second in its life span category; and only last November, NZ topped the Legatum Prosperity Index, a report which measures national performance in health, as well as several other key social indicators such as economic environment and education.
However, a look at our nation’s obesity statistics suggests that our reputation for good health could very likely run into trouble in years to come. Obesity in New Zealand has been steadily increasing in recent years. As reported by the Ministry of Health, 26.5% of adults had a BMI of 30 or above in 2006/7. By 2011/2, this figure had risen to 28.6%. By last year (2015/6) it had risen to 31.6%. In addition, a further 35% of adults in 2015/6 were in the overweight category.
The connection between obesity and serious chronic health issues is well established. Those who are overweight or obese at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and several other conditions.
Of course, the trend is a global one. Countries around the world are seeing obesity rates increasing, and raising awareness of this issue is going to be key in the coming years to tackling this epidemic before it starts. That means more educating the public, not only on diet and nutrition, but also on the benefits of undertaking physical activity on a regular basis.
While the gym is a great way to keep in shape and stay healthy, it can become familiar very quickly. Making time to engage in more adventurous health and fitness exercises every now and again can shake up our routine, and help to make staying well more enjoyable.
Luckily for New Zealanders, ours is a country with a host of health-boosting activities on its doorstep. Here are just a handful of NZ signature activities we can participate in to help us stay healthy, research courtesy of the folks at Treated.com:
Surely there’s no better place to start than with the nation’s favourite sport. Rugby utilises a combination of cardiovascular and strength exercises, contributing to better circulation and muscle health. And being the home of the best national team in the world, neither men nor women will have to look far in NZ for a local team to join.
While the full contact nature of it may not appeal to everyone, there are other versions, such as touch rugby, which will still give you a decent workout but won’t cause as many bruises.
It may seem like a serene and leisurely activity on TV commercials, but in reality sailing can be quite physically taxing. According to the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities put together by researchers at Arizona state University, sailing burns as many calories per minute as brisk walking. It also requires strength, agility and mental alertness; making it a good workout for anyone looking to widen their horizons.
One of the benefits of NZ living is that if that if summer sports like sailing aren’t your preference, you can try a winter sport instead without even having to get on a plane. Glacier skiing is more physically demanding than sailing, burning between two and three times more calories per minute depending on the level of effort you put in. It is also a great way to develop leg and lower body strength.
Natural Mud Pools
Staying well isn’t all about exercise. Rotorua boasts a wealth of geothermal and mud pools. While some do charge an entry fee, you can still access several free of charge. Hydrotherapies such as these have been employed for several years to help improve skin health, ease joint and tissue inflammation associated with conditions like arthritis, and treat several other conditions.
If there’s one thing NZ isn’t short of, it’s scenery. Studies have shown that hill walking, as well as providing a thorough cardiovascular workout, is great for our mental wellbeing too. Escaping to the country to go rambling helps to put some distance between us and our daily routine and reduces stress levels, and when we do it with friends it can contribute towards better social bonds.