Alternative Sports | Living North

Alternative Sports


Picking up a new activity to help boost your health-kick? Go against the grain and try some of these less mainstream sports. You may just become the Pele of Water Polo
‘Swimming is commonly known as one of the best exercises for fitness, so combine this with battling for possession, keeping your head above water and throwing the ball, and you could burn up to 700 calories per hour’

Roller Derby

Roller derby is as mad and as brilliant as you’d expect. Bear with us as we attempt to explain it. Roller Derby consists of two teams of five, roller skating in the same direction around a track. Both teams assign a ‘jammer’ from their team. The jammer’s objective is to lap the rest of the opposing team, thus scoring points. It’s a contact sport so this is a lot easier said than done. The jammer will meet resistance from the team they are trying to lap and receive help from their teammates. It’s a mayhem-filled, adrenaline-fuelled sport using speed, power and aggression.

Roller derby is a spring chicken when it comes to the world of sport, with origins as recent as the 1930s. It’s currently dominated by all-female amateur teams and is enjoyed for both its entertainment as well as athleticism, due to dramatic and considerable crashes.

If contact sports are your thing and you love an adrenaline rush, roller derby just might be your new favourite hobby. This sport may sound a bit wild but it’s really good for your body (you wear a helmet with knee and elbow pads to stop those bumps and bruises). You’ll be working hard getting round the track, burning fat and getting a real sweat on. It will help maintain a healthy heart and vastly improve your endurance. The most important aspect for roller derby is balance though, you will learn to improve quickly or you’ll be taking a tumble!

Get involved:
Middlesbrough Milk Rollers

Real Tennis

The rather pompously named real tennis is the forgotten older brother to the mainstream version of the sport played worldwide today. The biggest difference between the two games is the court and equipment. The court is bigger than we see in ‘normal’ tennis, you use a smaller racquet and the game is played indoors. The rules are quite similar on the whole but you may need a crash course on the more subtle differences. For example, the service is always made from the same end of the court – something we don’t see at Wimbledon.

Running around the court will improve your aerobic and anaerobic health, and will burn that all-important fat. Some great extra skills that real tennis can enhance are your balance and hand-eye coordination. It really is a full body workout.

Get involved:
Jesmond Dene Real Tennis Club Matthew Bank, Jesmond, Newcastle, NE2 3RE 0191 281 6854


The curling we’re familiar with today first became a winter Olympic sport in 1998, and has come a long way from its medieval Scottish roots involving stones and frozen lakes. If you decide to take it up, you’ll improve your precision skills, which can help when taking part in other sports. It’ll also help your body too. When taking a shot, the technique relies on getting very low to the ice. This will improve your flexibility and strength, especially in your legs. Moreover, even when you’re not taking the actual shot and find yourself sweeping, you’ll need to pump your arms at an alarming rate – a great way to deal with bingo wings. Don’t forget that you burn more calories in the cold, so considering it’s a game that’s played on ice, you’ll burn off those mince pies faster than you would on the treadmill.

Get involved:
Kelso Curling Club Abbeyside, The Knowes, Kelso, TD5 7BH 
01573 224774


Think football with your hands. Well, not quite, but the basic principles aren’t that dissimilar. You pass the ball with your hands, catch it, and then try and score by throwing the ball in your opponent’s net. Each team has seven players, including a goalkeeper, and whoever scores more goals wins the match.

Handball is a high-scoring, ferocious game of speed, accuracy and agility. It’s particularly good for building arm and upper body strength to throw the ball and make important interceptions. A match normally lasts for 30 minutes each half, so the constant moving and jumping means you’ll get a good stint of cardio in.

Get involved:
Sunderland Handball Club Allendale Road, Sunderland, SR3 3EL

Water Polo

Water polo shares many similarities with handball, except the most obvious one: the water. Teams of seven compete to throw a round ball into the opponent’s goal. All players play both offensive and defensive roles so it’s a real end-to-end game.

Water Polo requires you to learn a special type of treading water known as the eggbeater kick. Not only this but you need to throw, catch and shoot the ball too. This sport is one of the most physically demanding out there – high levels of stamina and endurance are needed as well as strength. Swimming is commonly known as one of the best exercises for fitness, so combine this with battling for possession, keeping your head above water and throwing the ball, and you could burn up to 700 calories per hour. It’s an effective fat burner and improves your cardiovascular health. Grab your swimsuit and take the plunge.

Get involved:
Durham City Amateur Swimming & Water Polo Club Freeman’s Quay Leisure Centre, Walkergate, Durham, DH1 1SW

Published in: December 2016

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