It’s Saturday morning and you and your family have just arrived at the park, ready to enjoy the beautiful weather and get in some fun-filled exercise. Everyone has gotten together this weekend – mom, dad, grandparents and several kids ranging from elementary to high school age. It’s been a long time in the making, and you want everyone to spend most of the day together, focused on activities that all can enjoy. So what do you have planned? Tackle football? Probably not. Free solo rock climbing? That’s most likely not going to be easy for the youngest and oldest members of your group.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation like this, you know that coming up with an activity everyone can enjoy can be a somewhat daunting task. Fortunately, Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry are loaded with activities that nearly everyone, no matter their age, can join in on, have a blast doing together and enjoy through every season of life.
Whether you are 5 years old or 85, running is an activity for just about everyone. It requires little training or instruction, gear or specialized locations. Whether you are sprinting or jogging, running provides many fitness benefits: an elevated heart rate and increased oxygen intake, along with muscle toning and core strengthening. If you are capable of running, you most likely began when you were young and will be able to continue well into your golden years if you maintain a healthy nutritional lifestyle and participate in a safe and doctor-approved manner.
One of the most popular places to run in Charleston is across the world-famous Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. With a length of 13,200 feet, it’s the main player in the annual Cooper River Bridge Run. You don’t need a special occasion to run the Ravenel Bridge, however, and, every day, weather permitting, a round-trip run will net you five miles of exercise, which you can always shorten if necessary. Another fantastic local place to run is the James Island County Park, featuring more than 4 miles of trails through woods, along creeks and across wide-open meadows. Don’t forget the wonderful benefits of running barefoot on the beach. From Isle of Palms down to Folly, there are miles of gorgeous sand just waiting for you and your loved ones to take advantage of.
While tennis requires some equipment, the ease with which young kids are able to handle a racket makes it another great sport that can be enjoyed from youth into older age. According to the site activekids.com, there are four great reasons to take up tennis at a young age: the social benefits; the low risk of injury; it’s great exercise; and it has a lifelong “shelf life” since it’s a low-impact exercise. There is no shortage of places in Charleston to play. The General William Moultrie Playground, directly across the street from Colonial Lake, features six lighted tennis courts as well as other amenities such as a playground and restrooms. Planter’s Pointe, a subdivision in Mount Pleasant, also has tennis courts and a beautiful clubhouse, as well as an Olympic-sized pool to cool off in after residents work up a sweat. The Charleston Tennis Center in West Ashley also provides a great environment for tennis enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy the sport. The center’s website states: “The Charleston Tennis Center offers everything for the tennis enthusiast, from lessons to novice tournaments to USTA rated leagues.” There is a small fee to play and reservations are recommended.
Children usually learn to swim at an early age, and a growing number of seniors who rely on swimming and water aerobics to stay in shape. According to the Medical University of South Carolina’s website: “Healthy, untrained older women who did 60 minutes of shallow-water exercise (including 20 minutes of upper- and lower-body resistance training with equipment) three days a week for 24 weeks increased lean body mass by 3.4% and significantly improved muscular strength.” Considering we all came from the ocean in the first place, it makes sense that we continue to interact with water throughout our lives for maximum health. Visitors to Folly Beach County Park will find it’s easy and enjoyable to swim in the ocean on a regular basis – as long as you take all the necessary safety precautions. The West County Aquatic Center, part of the Charleston County Parks and about 30 minutes south of town in Hollywood, offers amenities such as lifeguards, swim lanes, a zero-depth entry area, restrooms, showers and changing area, swim lessons and fitness programs. You can learn more at ccprc.com. The MLK Jr. Pool at 155 Jackson St. in Charleston is open six days a week, year-round and offers long hours of swimming at moderate rates. The facility offers lessons and specific pool hours for various types of swimmers, including seniors, recreational and competitive.
Take one look at all the offerings in any bicycle store and you will see that it is a recreation anyone, regardless of age, can immerse themselves in. Strider bikes for toddlers, with their pedal-free operation; bikes with training wheels for slightly bigger kids just learning; road race, BMX and mountain bikes for the fittest and most adventurous among us; and commuter and electric bikes for those who prefer a slower pace or simply a more leisurely experience all point to the fact that bicycling is truly a sport for everyone.
Bicyclists enjoy their diversion of choice in many of the same locations frequented by runners. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge boasts sidewalks wide enough for bicyclists, runners and walkers to co-exist in harmony, while the James Island County Park’s trails are paved for the most part and suitable for road bikes. You can even rent bikes at the park.
The next time you plan an outing with the entire family – or even if you are simply thinking of exploring fitness options for your young children or for yourself during your later years – remember that there are a vast number of activities that can be pursued at any age. If you are lucky enough to be a resident of the Lowcountry, or even if you are just visiting, you are surrounded by a wealth of opportunities to dive into, run across, bike through or serve up.
By Dave Clucas