Five alternative team sports to try

MSK Clinical Lead at Bupa UK
03 July 2019

When you think about team sports, popular types such as football, rugby, hockey and cricket are probably the first that come to mind. But plenty of other types are played regularly across the UK, including some more unusual ones!

Here are five emerging team sports you could try if you’re looking for something a bit different. And keep reading for some fantastic expert insight from Lauren Gordon, Behavioural Insights Adviser at Bupa. Lauren shares her personal experiences of team sports and explains what the research shows about their health benefits.

Woman holding volleyball

1. Tag rugby

Tag rugby has grown in popularity as a non-contact version of the traditional game, which can be played by mixed teams and players large or small. Players wear shorts or a belt with velcro patches attached, which the opposing team try to pull off.

Tag rugby involves lots of running around, which is great for your heart health. The emphasis is very much on having fun and being inclusive.

Find out more: Try Tag Rugby.


2. Handball

Handball has been described as a mix between football, netball and water polo (although it’s played on land rather than in water). It's a fast game where the aim is to throw the ball into the other team's goal. One study found that handball can have similar benefits to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), including building bone and muscle strength.

Find out more: England Handball.


3. Volleyball

Don’t you need sunny weather and a beach to play volleyball? Fortunately, given the typical climate in the UK, that’s not actually the case! There are a surprising number of venues across the country, indoor and outdoor, where you can play volleyball. It’s a sport that requires quick reflexes, and research has suggested that if you play regularly, this could have benefits for your mental agility.

Find out more: Volleyball England.


4. Ultimate frisbee

An inclusive game with no referees, ultimate frisbee involves plenty of running, jumping and stretching. In teams of seven, players pass the frisbee between their teammates. The player holding the frisbee can't run and has ten seconds to throw it. Points are scored when the frisbee is passed in the oppositions' 'endzone' (a rectangular area at the end of the field).

You could burn around 500 calories in a 40-minute game of ultimate frisbee, getting your heart rate up and having fun while you’re at it.

Find out more: UK Ultimate.


5. Synchronised swimming

Although it’s not an option everywhere in the UK, there are more opportunities to become involved in synchronised swimming than you might think. Combining elements of swimming, dance and gymnastics, it’s a full body workout. It also requires close collaboration, so it’s a great social activity and participants say it helps build their self-confidence.

Find out more: Swim England.


The benefits of team sports

Here Lauren Gordon, Behavioural Insights Adviser, shares her thoughts on the benefits of playing team sports regularly.

“I started playing hockey at school, and ever since then I’ve been part of a hockey team or club. I generally enjoy sports and exercise, so for me the motivation to play a team sport is about meeting others. It’s a great opportunity to expand your social circle and meet people from different walks of life but with a common interest. In fact, there’s research to suggest that playing team sports in your leisure time could have better health outcomes than exercising on your own. This is due to the benefits on your mental and social health, improving your overall wellbeing.”

“Going through everything together, whether that’s training, celebrating successes or commiserating losses can teach you what real teamwork is, too.”

“There’s also a feeling of belonging that comes from being a team member which can be a really powerful driver on our behaviour. When we identify with a team, we incorporate this identity into our own and behave in line with it. Joining a sports team could mean going from someone who doesn’t like exercise, to someone who is sporty and trains for matches. This change in the way we see ourselves means that we are more likely to make healthier choices in other areas of our lives.”

“For those that want to be more active but the idea of the gym or going running solo doesn’t appeal, then joining a team sport can be a really good way to stay healthy and fit whilst making exercise fun. Did you know that in a 70-minute hockey match, players can run up to 10km, and it could be even more for a football match? You’re also much more likely to stick to this type of exercise habit, because even when your motivation is low, it’s harder to back out once you’ve committed to a team and they’re relying on you to show up!”


Finding an exercise that suits you

Enjoying a type of exercise is perhaps the biggest motivator of all when it comes to keeping up a fitness routine. So whether group sports or solo fitness appeals more to you, I’d encourage you to find an activity that you find fun and satisfying. There are so many benefits of exercise, whatever form it takes.




Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Jon Edmondson
MSK Clinical Lead at Bupa UK

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