view from ground of people holding volleyball

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are scheduled to take place in London, England, from July 27 to August 12. According to historical records, the games this year will continue a tradition that was started in 776 B.C., when the first Olympic Games were dedicated to the gods of Olympus and held on the plains of Olympia.

The games were originally a one-day event, but in 684 B.C. they were extended to three days, and then to five days in the 5th century B.C. Ancient games included running, long jump, shot-put, javelin, boxing, and equestrian events, which are all still part of the Olympics today.

Watching all those fierce competitors perform may inspire you to get more active yourself. Fortunately, you don't have to train all your life to enjoy the benefits of an Olympic sport. All it takes is a little time and the willingness to try something new.

Olympic Beach Volleyball: Get Fit with a Team
Among Olympic sports, beach volleyball is a relative newcomer. It first debuted at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and the sport's popularity has soared since then. As you might guess - beach volleyball normally happens on the beach. But this year, there's a catch: London has no beaches, so the games will be held at the famous Horse Guards Parade. A total of 96 competitors will take to the sand to participate in men's and women's events.

If you're craving a chance to play in the sand, check out your local area for beach volleyball courts. Just like London, many places lacking beaches still have sand-filled courts available or parks with nets set up. If you're playing outside, remember to take basic precautions like wearing sunscreen. Or, if there's no sand in sight, contact your local YMCA or community center to try regular volleyball. It's an Olympic sport too, with 288 competitors this year.

Beach volleyball and regular volleyball offer similar workouts. Moves like serving, bumping and setting may appear to strengthen only your arms, but you'll get better results if you bend your knees and use the power of your legs. During an exciting rally - in which the ball is hit back and forth across the net - you won't even realize how much you're moving around. Plus, you'll benefit from the support and encouragement of a team, making it that much easier for you to enjoy the physical workout.

Olympic Archery: For Upper Body and Mental Fitness
This year's archery competition will be held at the Lord's Cricket Ground in England. Competitors will be following a tradition that dates back approximately 10,000 years, from the time when humans first began using bows and arrows for hunting and warfare. Competitors this year include 64 men and 64 women.

Archery can be a great choice for fitness, particularly for those who want to get the whole family involved, or who have had to stop other sports because of an injury. Beginners can enroll at a club registered with Archery GB, the sport's governing body, and take classes or private lessons. Archery works the upper body and helps improve balance and coordination. For those who take part in competitions, they will walk the equivalent of five miles, pulling heavy loads during the event. The sport is also great for improving mental focus and clarity.

Experts recommend you keep your arm muscles strong through cross training to avoid injuries. A beginner's course will ensure you have what you need.

Olympic Trampoline Gymnastics
Did you know that trampoline gymnastics are now an Olympic sport? The event made its debut at the Sydney, Australia games in 2000; however, the sport was around long before those games. The first ever Trampoline World Championships were held at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1964. This year's competition will involve 16 men and 16 women jumping to heights of up to 10 meters while displaying acrobatic excellence.

You don't have to perform such amazing feats to get the health benefits of trampoline jumping. In fact, fitness experts are now using trampolines and mini-trampolines as part of an overall fitness program. You'll likely find classes at your local fitness center. Most classes will use the term "rebounding," the current word to describe trampolining for health benefits.

Modern-day rebounding involves repeatedly jumping and incorporating controlled movements in an aerobic routine. It's perfect for burning calories and toning muscles. Rebounding is considered very safe and "doable" by people of all fitness levels, but those with bad knees or other joint issues should not participate. For those who want to try it, you can take a class or you have the option of using a mini-trampoline at home. This makes the exercise particularly attractive for those wanting something they can do after work or while watching the kids.

HealthAhead Hint: It's Your Choice!
If these three options don't sound right for you, don't worry--the Olympics involve a long list of sports that you may want to try, including swimming, fencing, rowing, tennis, badminton, canoeing, cycling, and horse jumping. All are great forms of exercise and will offer challenges for your body and mind. You might even have so much fun, you won't realize you're working out!