One of the sporting calendars biggest events, The Six Nations, is taking place throughout February & March. For those wondering, it’s an international Rugby Union competition featuring England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales!
Whether you are already engrossed in the tournament or you’ve not paid much attention to it, there is no doubt that the Six Nations provides the perfect excuse to put rugby union in the spotlight as a great activity for improving health and fitness!
With that in mind, here are some of the major reasons why we should be taking inspiration from big tackles and think seriously about scrums in terms of our own physical and mental wellbeing.
When the going gets tough…
Rugby is one of the most well know contact sports around- but it is easy to forget when watching a thrilling game that every time a player is in a scrum or takes/makes a tackle, they are in fact strengthening their bodies.
The pushing and pulling against body weight is strengthening muscles and bones, ultimately making them stronger and fitter.
Of course, not everyone fancies getting muddy on a cold, wet field, or wants to risk injury in a scrum, but taking inspiration from these rugby players and introducing strength training to your week will do you the world of good.
The science behind scrumming (and running!)
Rugby is one of the few competitive sports that combines the athleticism of running and sprinting with extreme physical contact!
Strengthening actions and exercises concentrate on your muscles, making them work harder than usual and increasing your strength, size, power and endurance. This, of course, makes you physically stronger and more robust, and is great for lowing your blood pressure.
Again, while you might not fancy running round a rugby pitch – this magic combination of cardiovascular & strength work is good to remember. Incorporating both types of activity into your exercise regime will be really beneficial!
Can kids kick it…yes, they can!
Strengthening activities are particularly important for children as it will help build strong bones, regulate blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight from a young age.
The Government recommends children’s activities should include strengthening exercises for around three hours a week.
While a kiddies rugby group (and there are many options available these days) is a perfect way to help your child meet these targets, there are plenty of other things children can do to improve their strength.
Swimming, yoga and martial arts are all fun activities to increase muscle strength. Fun games to try at home can include wheelbarrow races, dancing, or doing cartwheels and handstands! Alternatively, you can take the activity a little further afield and try climbing trees and hiking and scrambling up hills.
These are all fun activities that you can do as a family and don’t feel like strengthening exercises!
Forever young, forever strong!
As we age our bones naturally weaken, causing problems for our joints including hips and knees. By doing strength exercises that mimic body weight movements of rugby players, you will start to build stronger bones to help prevent avoidable weakening and conditions such as osteoporosis.
Strengthening exercises also help to improve balance,which means you are less likely to suffer a fall as you naturally become more fragile!
Of the recommended 30 minutes activity per day for adults, at least two sessions should be based around strengthening exercises. Again, these can be achieved through lifting weights at the gym or going to specific classes. Good results can still be achieved through activities at home, such as squats, calf raises & heavy gardening (weather permitting!)
For an activity to be muscle strengthening it needs to work your muscles to the point that you may need a short rest before continuing. As with the children, yoga classes, martial arts and walking will also do the trick.
Contrary to popular belief, strengthening exercises won’t bulk you up. In fact, the muscle fibres developed through strength training can help improve whole-body metabolism and make you leaner.
It’s actually very difficult to achieve the physically bigger muscles we see at body building competitions or on many gym floors. In order to bulk up you need to combine very specific workouts with dramatically increased calorie intake and supplements regime.
Saying that, you may well find you put on weight as you increase your strengthening exercises, but it is important to remember this is muscle weight and not body mass.
If you or your kids like the sound of rugby, there are plenty of grass roots clubs you can go along to for taster sessions.
It is important to remember there are lots of different types of rugby – with Union and League being the most popular – so make sure you choose one that is right for you or your child.
But if tackles, scrums and muddy pitches really aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways we can take inspiration from players in this year’s tournament.
So go on, give it at TRY!