Live Longer by Playing Games
Maintaining balance and agility as we age can be difficult. Over time we limit physical activities, muscles weaken and our ability to remain steady slowly declines. Fortunately, there's a simple way to slow down or even reverse that depressing trend. A couple of times a week, start playing the game hopscotch.
Hopscotch is great for your body in several ways. You develop good hand-eye coordination as you learn to throw a chip onto the proper square. You build balance and leg strength as you hop from one square to another. Just bending over to pick up the chip will activate and train several muscles in the legs, hips and back.
How to Play
The simplest version of the game is to draw a “court” with eight squares. Each square has a number in it, from 1 to 8. There are no limits on how many people can play. Each time you move through every square in the court and return, you've finished a course. The winner is the first person to complete the course eight times, without making an error, in one round.
Start by throwing a chip, like a rock or a beanbag, so it lands in the square with the 1 in it. The chip must land in the square without touching any lines or rolling out. If it touches a line or lands outside, the turn is over. Your first move is jumping over that square, landing on ONE FOOT in square 2.
If there are two squares in front of you, you hop again and land with one foot in each square. If there is one square in front of you, hop into that square while balancing on a single foot. You continue moving from one square to the next until you reach number 8. Then you pivot around and continue hopping back.
When you reach the square your chip is in you bend over to pick it up, while staying balanced on one foot. Once you have the chip, you can finish hopping through the course.
After completing the course, you throw the chip onto the next number and repeat. You are always jumping over the square with the chip in it.
If you touch a line or land outside a line, that ends your turn. For a full game, you have to restart from the beginning each time until you move through all eight squares in one turn. If you're playing a fast game, you can start with whatever number you ended on the turn before.
To build up endurance and balance, switch which legs you hop on for each turn. Instead of bending over to pick up the chip, try doing a squat instead.
If you're learning, practice jumping from one square to another without throwing a chip. Work on your balance as you hop. Practice the turn at the end. Run through the course a couple of times as a warm-up exercise before going for a walk.
Variations of the Game
The game space or court can have several configurations such as 9 or 10 spaces, rest spaces put in where you can put both feet down, or even a board with three spaces across. If there's a space that's blank like an arch at the top, that's usually designated as a safe zone where you can stand with both feet.
Watch The Time moves the game quickly. You set a timer for 30 seconds, and each person must complete the course in that time to proceed. Go over your time, and you lose your turn.
Sign On The Line has you claim squares. You don't have to go in order; you throw your chip on any unsigned square. If you complete the course successfully, you get to initial the square and pass the chip onto the next player. Once all the squares are signed, the person with the most signed squares wins.
Kick It is one of the most challenging variations. You have to kick the chip, with your hopping foot, to the next space in order to move. The winner is the first person to kick the chip and follow it through all the spaces without landing on a line or stumbling.
Outside courts should be clear of debris like stones or slick surfaces. Ensure the spaces are large enough to fit your feet but not so large you can't jump over them when a chip is in it. The area around the court should also be clear in case you start to fall. You want to have enough room to recover without running into obstacles.
Inside courts that are made of rugs need to be firmly fixed to the floor. Use carpet tape or a runner to keep them from sliding around as you jump from space to space. You should also make sure the area around the court is clear, so you have enough room to recover if you start to fall.
Below are some court designs you can try.
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