Holiday activities to try at home

Jane Murphy / 27 May 2016

Tried a new fitness activity on holiday? Bring your new-found passion home with you – and carry on reaping the health benefits.



Greek dancing

So you had a smashing time in the taverna? It's worth continuing to work on your Zorba-style moves at home. That's according to a new study from Greece's Aristotle University, which looked at the impact of traditional Greek dancing on older adults with long-term heart conditions. Following a three-month dance-based rehab regime, patients saw an average 10 per cent improvement in jumping ability, leg strength and muscle endurance.

Related: Our diet expert tries a bit of Greek dancing in her quest to stay slim

Flamenco

Don't hide your souvenir castanets away in a drawer when you get back from Spain! Flamenco is excellent for encouraging good posture, upper-body strength and cardiovascular fitness. What's more, the challenge of learning new steps and sequences helps improve and maintain brain function: regular physical activity, such as dancing, is associated with a larger brain size in areas linked to memory and learning, US researchers have found.

Related: A beginner’s guide to dance classes

Horse-riding

Been lured into the saddle on holiday? Try searching out your local stables back home. It's never too late to take up horse-riding – and this sociable past-time helps improve your fitness, build muscle tone, promote muscle strength and burn calories, according to the British Equestrian Foundation's Hoof Initiative (www.hoofride.co.uk/). In fact, you can burn around 360 calories an hour by trotting on horseback: that's roughly the same as you'd burn in a lunchtime gym workout.

Pétanque

Take a stroll through any park in France, and chances are you'll stumble across a bunch of locals enjoying a sedate game of pétanque. The aim? To throw three metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden jack, while keeping both feet on the ground. It may not be the most athletic of sports, but it requires plenty of stamina and strategic thinking – plus you'll reap the mood-lifting benefits of meeting new people and exercising in the open air. Learn more from the English Pétanque Association (www.englishpetanque.org.uk/).

Country dancing

Post-dinner barn dances are increasingly popular on UK hotel breaks – but most of us wouldn't dream of doing a do-si-do back home. But, says a University of Cumbria study, the range of movements required for country dancing routines offers huge health benefits for older women and can help delay the ageing process.

Women aged 70 to 80 who'd taken part in Scottish country dancing for at least 10 years performed significantly better than non-dancers in a variety of physical tasks, such as seeing how far they could walk in six minutes and how far they could reach towards their toes while seated.

Related: The health benefits of dancing

Fell-walking

Fell-walking might sound rather specialist, but it's simply a term to describe hill-walking in Northern England. And you don't need to be on holiday in the Lake District to walk up a hill, do you?

Regular brisk walking is the best exercise for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, according to researchers at the London School of Economics. So try to introduce more walking into your daily routine – and don't shy away from those challenging inclines.

Related: Nine ways to get more out of your walks

Swimming

Yes, we know a morning swim's much more inviting when you're staying in a villa or hotel with a private pool – but there are plenty of healthy reasons to make the effort to take a dip when you're home.

An example? Swimming can improve your sense of balance and help prevent falls, according to a study of older adults at the University of Western Sydney in Australia. Regular swimmers had an impressive 53 per cent lower fall rate than those who did no exercise.

Related: Swim your way to fitness

Belly-dancing

You gave it a go in Turkey? Good for you! Keep going when get home. Belly-dancing provides a full-body workout, but is particularly good for your legs, hips and – obviously – waist. It can also improve posture and flexibility. But perhaps best of all, it encourages a positive body image because dancers 'tend to focus less on their external appearance, and more on the experience and what they're able to do with their bodies', says a recent Australian.

Related: Are you your own worst critic? Learn how to stop criticising yourself

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