If you thought extreme sports were only for adrenaline junkies, think again. Extreme sports are way more accessible to the general public than you might imagine. When you hear the term “extreme sports”, it may conjure up images of injury, death and destruction. However, the name can be a bit misleading.
Before we go any further, let’s define the term extreme sport.
What is the definition of extreme sport?
Extreme sports are hard to define. Depending on who you ask, extreme sport could refer to a large number of activities.
“The term ‘extreme sports’ was coined in the 1990s, when ‘extreme skiing’ was popular and the X-Games (short, of course, for ‘extreme’ games) were created,” writes Mike Steen, Professional BASE jumper, paraglider and skydiver. “I personally don't like the term, because I feel that our sports are more calculated than extreme. Anything can be extreme. Just try running across a busy highway during rush hour traffic."
Chris ‘Douggs’ McDougall, BASE Jumper, skydiver and wingsuit pilot, agrees that the word ‘extreme’ has a negative connotation.
“I really don't like the term 'extreme sports.' I prefer to use the term 'adventure sports,' because every time I do my sports I’m going on a cool adventure,” he writes. “There are no white lines, no goal posts, no rules, just pure adventure. I don't feel that BASE jumping or surfing or any of my chosen sports are extreme in the normal sense of the word; instead, they allow me to travel to incredible places in all corners of the earth and fulfil my dreams.”
“’Extreme sports’ are those that have a high level of perceived risk, not necessarily a high level of actual risk,” according to Al MacCartney, World Champion Airsports Athlete.
This is not to say extreme sports are risk-free, they’re simply not as risky as we’ve been led to believe. The level of risk and ‘extremity’ also depends greatly on the sport (and what it’s being compared to). Indoor bouldering, for example, is far less extreme than BASE jumping, yet far more extreme than yoga.
We’ve put together a list of adventure sports that any physically fit individual should be able to participate in, if they so wish.
Six extreme sports you should add to your bucket list:
1. Indoor bouldering
Bouldering is essentially rock climbing without a harness. While it may sound horrifically dangerous, it’s not as risky as it seems - as long as you know what you’re doing. Indoor bouldering is a great way for beginners to get started in a safe environment. While you won’t be using ropes or a harness, indoor climbing gyms have safety mats to soften your fall.
Indoor bouldering doesn’t require any expensive equipment to get started. All you need is a comfortable pair of trainers (or climbing shoes), a t-shirt and shorts/leggings, and a chalk bag. Indoor bouldering is highly social. It’s a great hobby to get into with a group of friends, or as a way to meet like minded people.
Is indoor bouldering a good workout?
Both outdoor and indoor bouldering are an excellent full body workout. Climbing engages multiple muscle groups. In fact, it uses “nearly the whole body’s musculature,” according to Jiří Baláš, researcher and lecturer at Charles University in Prague.
Traditional gym workouts (such as cycling or rowing) focus on repetitive movements which target specific muscle groups. In comparison, climbing is more complex. Bouldering requires variable movements that change depending on your route. This means you’ll train a wide variety of different muscles every time you climb.
Climbing combines both resistance and cardiovascular training. Lifting and pulling your bodyweight mirrors the effects of resistance exercises - strengthening your core and improving flexibility. A 2004 study on the physiology of rock climbing also found that “climbers use a significant portion of their aerobic capacity”. The heart rate response of participants in the study was far higher than initially predicted. Although bouldering offers a full body workout, it’s important to note that you’re unlikely to lose much weight climbing. Climbing will, however, help you build lean muscle and tone your body, which should support your weight loss efforts.
Physical strength isn’t the only thing you’ll need when climbing. As it turns out, indoor bouldering is also a great workout for your mind. Planning your route requires problem solving skills to help you find the fastest (and safest) way to the top of the wall. You’ll quickly forget all the stresses of daily life as you push your body and mind to their limits
2. Mountain Biking
If you love nature and are confident on two wheels, mountain biking could be the extreme sport for you. Mountain biking (or MTB) is a form of off-road cycling, involving obstacles and rough terrain. It does require a certain level of technical skill on a bicycle for safety, however, mountain biking isn’t too much more dangerous than road cycling.
A study comparing road vs. trail injury patterns in cyclists over a three year period, found that road cyclists sustained more head injuries. “16% of road cycling injuries were to the head, while only 6% percent of mountain biking injuries were the same”. This isn’t to say that mountain biking is less dangerous than road cycling, simply that both have their risks.
Apart from the bike itself, mountain biking will require some gear to get started, including a helmet, gloves, a puncture kit, a multi-tool, and padded shorts.
Is mountain biking a good workout?
Mountain biking is a great cardio workout. When coupled with a healthy balanced diet, it can be an excellent exercise to help you lose weight. As far as muscles are concerned, cycling is predominantly a leg workout - engaging mostly your calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads Mountain biking isn’t a great exercise for building lean muscle, however it will help build muscle endurance.
3. Parkour (a.k.a Freerunning)
Parkour (or freerunning) originated from obstacle training in the military. It typically takes place in an urban environment, and involves running, jumping, climbing and balancing. The definition of parkour is moving as quickly and efficiently as possible from point A to point B, using logic and creativity to overcome barriers. Sounds simple right? Not quite. The bigger the obstacle to overcome, the more dangerous freerunning can be.
That being said, there’s no reason why parkour needs to be dangerous. In fact, it’s probably one of the most accessible extreme sports. You won’t need any equipment to get started and, if you’re physically fit, it can be self-taught. Like all sports, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. You will need to learn to land safely (which often involves rolling) to avoid injuries.
Is parkour a good workout?
Like bouldering, freerunning is an excellent full body workout. It engages all muscle groups, and your workout varies depending on the route you take. It also engages your logic and creativity - keeping you thinking on your toes.
Parkour combines both cardio and resistance training. Because of this, parkour can be a great addition to your weight loss routine. It’s a great core workout (building core strength) which can help prevent back injuries. Freerunning is also a high-impact sport and can help you improve your bone strength. Parkour builds your skill-related fitness, improving skills like agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction time and speed.
Surprisingly, parkour is recommended to seniors suffering from arthritis. It helps to relieve symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and swelling caused by inflammation.
“A group of seniors from London made the news a few years ago for taking up parkour from trained coaches. But instead of bold, dramatic leaps and dives characteristic of the sport, they simply attempted small, gradual steps, such as simple balancing motions. After attending these sessions, one participant was reportedly able to walk straight again, having been plagued by a slight limp previously”, writes ActiveSG.
Love the cold? If you’re a Winter person, then snowboarding is the ideal adventure sport for you. Like skiing, snowboarding involves sliding down a snowy slope. Instead of facing forward with two boards strapped to your feet, you’ll have a single, larger board and travel with your body facing sideways. This sounds more confusing than it looks, we promise.
“Skiing is easier to learn but harder to master - whereas snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master,” writes Snow Skool. This is mostly for psychological reasons. Skiing seems more natural, because of your body position. Your legs are separated, allowing you to stop yourself if you feel like you’re about to fall. As awkward as snowboarding may feel on your first few tries, once you adjust to having both feet attached, you’ll improve in leaps and bounds. You also won’t run the risk of crossing skis (which can be a real hazard when learning to ski).
You’ll require some gear for snowboarding. Apart from the snowboard itself, you’ll need snowboard boots, adequately warm clothing, gloves, a helmet and snow goggles.
Is snowboarding a good workout?
Like mountain biking, snowboarding is an excellent cardio workout (ideal for weight loss). It works mainly your core and leg muscles, engaging your feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings and quads. However your arms and shoulders also get a bit of a workout when used for balance, or picking yourself up after falling.
Snowboarding helps to improve your balance, coordination and flexibility.
5. Ultimate Frisbee (a.k.a Ultimate)
If you’re looking for an adventurous team sport, ultimate frisbee (or ultimate for short) is a fun and highly active game. It’s a non-contact sport which uses a disc (frisbee) instead of a ball.
Ultimate is played on a field, similar to that of a rugby field but narrower. Teams are made up of seven players each and each team must defend their end zone. A goal is scored when one of your team members catches the frisbee within the opponent's’ end zone. Unlike most team sports, ultimate is self-refereed. This means players are required to know the rules of the game and adhere to them.
Is ultimate frisbee a good workout?
Ultimate is a fast-paced and intense sport which requires players to develop excellent throwing skills, agility and stamina. It’s a great cardio workout, with a similar effect to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) - making ultimate a good way to lose weight. A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that one 40-minute match of ultimate burned 477 calories. That’s more than the recommended 400 calories you should burn during a gym session.
It’s also a very social game, requiring teamwork. Ultimate can boost your mood and help improve your communication skills.
If water sports are more your thing, wakeboarding might be right up your alley. Wakeboarding is the ‘snowboarding’ of water skiing so to say. It’s a surface water sport (unlike scuba diving, for example) and uses techniques found in surfing, snowboarding and waterskiing.
In order to wakeboard, you’ll need a powerboat (travelling around 30 to 40km/h) which creates the wake for you to ride. Wakeboarders are towed behind the boat. Once you’ve mastered standing on the board, there are many tricks you can learn. You will need to be a strong swimmer to participate in wakeboarding, in case you fall off.
Is wakeboarding a good workout?
Wakeboarding strengthens your arm and leg muscles, as well as your core. It also improves your agility, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, balance and stability. While it may not be quite as much of a workout as some of the other activities on this list, it’s a good way to get some well-needed sunshine and vitamin D.
At the end of the day, extreme (adventure) sports are a great way to stay in shape. They can also be loads of fun when practiced safely. A Scottish Health Survey found that outdoor physical activity had a 50% more positive effect on mental health than indoor physical activity.
Why not give one of these a try? You can also discover Body Fit, our easy to follow plan that provides insights to your power and endurance profile.