As we get older it’s a reality that, despite our best intentions, the freedom we took for granted to play typically dwindles through some combination of career, relationship, and family commitments.
However, when we do meet friends for a Saturday morning Pilates class or an after work Happy Hour, the conversation often drifts back to our nostalgic youth where free time was as seemingly endless as the Fast & Furious franchise.Within these conversations, and even as we embrace individuals with a diverse collection of personalities, cultural backgrounds and life experiences, common threads emerge; memories of joy and conflict with siblings, recollections of specific holidays and, for many, reflections on participation in youth sports.
Yet, even as relationships with siblings can remain complicated and the desire to travel endures, our relationship with sport is one that, for many reasons, goes from active to passive.
This is less than ideal.
Athletics combine both the fitness and social aspects of life that are often overlooked as we start getting older; this is important because these elements are necessary to achieve optimization, the ideal whereby your body systems are working together in perfect harmony.
So, whether you’re looking to try something for the first time or to rekindle the passion you had as a kid, we’ve got you covered below. You’ll learn about a range of accessible sports and, as a bonus, we’ve provided the ideal fungi supplement to compliment your specific athletic endeavors.
The Sport: Curling
Long popular across Scandinavia, Canada, and its spiritual home of Scotland, curling is one of those sports that seems to garner a boost in popularity every Olympic cycle. With shots this impressive, it’s not hard to see why.
Curling is well suited to anyone regardless of age or gender, and eminently accessible to anyone with a modicum of balance and a delicate touch, but who also likes to smash things together like a toddler playing with their monster trucks; if you’ve spent your summers playing Bocce Ball, that’s also helpful.
As an added bonus, despite the successes of the sports stars, the top curlers are extremely relatable – most have a second job - and they’re always up for a good time.
If you’re still unsure, this beginner’s guide will be helpful.
The Star: Kerri Einarson
The skip of the current three-time defending Canadian Champions, Kerri Einarson is the undisputed top women’s curler from the most successful country the sport has ever seen, which is akin to being the greatest pasta chef in Italy, or the most loved book from Oprah’s Book Club.
In addition to incredible success nationally, Einarson’s rink has won four Grand Slam of Curling events - including the 2021 Player’s Championship and 2022 Champions Cup – while also earning a bronze medal at the 2022 World Curling Championships.
Einarson, who is a proud Métis, is equally wonderful away from the rink. When she isn’t hitting runback doubles, she works as a rehabilitation assistant at a personal care home and, in 2021, she received the Tom Longboat Award which recognizes the inspiring contributions of Indigenous athletes' to sport in Canada.
The Mushroom: Lion’s Mane
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) functions like a strict border crossing inside your head, blocking circulating toxins and pathogens, while allowing vital nutrients to reach the brain.[i] Notably, the BBB also prevents the uptake of most pharmaceuticals, making it difficult to treat mental and neurological disorders
However, studies have shown that compounds from Lion’s Mane (called hericenones and erinacines) can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Essentially, Lion’s Mane has a valid passport to skip past border control, and its natural chemicals stimulate the creation of neuron growth factors that maintain and organize neurons and activate the brain.[ii]
With brain boosting properties to keep you focused and sharp, Lion’s Mane is the mushroom to keep your mind clear as you stare a down a raised takeout in the 10th end of your club championship.
The Sport: Volleyball
Played with six players per side, volleyball is a sport deriving much of its popularity from its addicting simplicity. The ball gets served over and the receiving team has three tries to get it back over. When it’s played well, it’s quite breathtaking.
It’s an equally great game whether you’re just starting out, or haven’t played in a long time. The learning curve can be steep, but it doesn’t take long to pick up the individual skills.
As a bonus, if the ball comes to you off the serve, you don’t even have to get it over the net; just hit to a teammate and you’ve done your job. Very few of us are lucky enough to be able to delegate when we are at work, but volleyball is basically made for it.
Maybe that’s why it’s so popular.
Boasting an impressive 222 member nations, the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) estimates roughly 800 million people play volleyball, making it one of the most played sports worldwide. Included in these totals are thriving professional leagues in places as geographically and culturally diverse as Poland, Brazil, and Italy.
If you’re still a little nervous, try out Crossnet – it’s basically the training wheels, backyard version of the real thing.
The Star: Wilfredo Leon
In team sports, it can be difficult to quantify the best individual talent. That is, unless they are so obviously prodigiously talented as Wilfredo Leon.
Leon was born in Cuba and debuted for the Cuban National Team in 2008 at the age of 14. By 2011, he was a 17-year-old team captain as Cuba won a silver medal at the 2010 World Championships.
However, in 2013, Leon left Cuba to play professionally in Russia for Zenit Kazan, effectively barring him from ever playing for his home country again. Then, in 2018, he joined Italian club Sir Safety Perugia.
During this time, his teams won more trophies than there are Game Of Thrones spinoffs and Leon developed into the best outside hitter in the world, regularly spiking the ball with the intensity of a cyclone fighting a hurricane during an earthquake.
Amidst all the this, Leon became a Polish citizen in 2015, and now represents his adopted country at the international level.
His captivating journey and immense skill have earned him a feature in the New York Times, more than 240,000 followers on Instagram, and the respect of teammates and opponents alike.
The Mushroom: Cordyceps
As an aerobic sport with anaerobic aspects, the demands of Volleyball fit nicely with the energizing compounds of the Cordyceps mushroom. For example, experimental evidence has shown Cordyceps to be capable of effectively reducing fatigue.[iii] As well, in a 6-week study focused on older participants, anaerobic thresholds were significantly increased in patients administered Cordyceps whereas the corresponding thresholds were unchanged in those given a placebo.[iv]
When the game is on the line, someone needs the energy to make that final save. Why not make it you?
The Sport: Soccer
As the most played and viewed sport worldwide, the beauty and popularity of soccer (or football, depending on where you live) rests with its simplicity; one ball, eleven players a side, and two goals in which to kick said ball. It can be played indoors, on grass, on concrete, and even on the beach.
It’s worth noting how no athletic endeavor forces more emotional and ethical contradictions among its supporters than soccer. For every unifying joyous and unifying moment, or truly charitable superstar there is a valid reason to wonder if the sport deserves the devotion it receives.
That said, while it isn’t always the beautiful game it purports to be, it is a wonderful avenue for you and your friends to remain active and connected.
The Stars: Christine Sinclair and Alphonso DaviesIn terms of soccer, while the Canadian Women’s National Team has earned its share of successes over the past twenty years, the Canadian Men’s National Team has mostly bumbled along like the Wet Bandits.
The most illustrative example came in 2014. With the women just two years removed from a Bronze Medal at the 2012 London Olympics, and preparing for a 2015 World Cup in which they’d advance to the quarter-finals, the Men’s National Team was at its nadir with an abysmal world ranking of 122nd.
But now, both teams are in sync and saying bye bye bye to past disappointments.
Led by Christine Sinclair, international soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer, Canada finally put previous close calls and officiating catastrophes behind them to win the Gold Medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Incredibly, Sinclair debuted for the national team back in 2000 and twenty-two years later she’s still scoring goals and receiving honours.
For their part, and with a recent dispute with the Canadian Soccer Association notwithstanding, the Canadian Men’s National Team became the best story of World Cup Qualifying and will represent Canada for the first time since 1986.
Canada boasts a balanced exciting team, and is finally benefitting from players with dual citizenship choosing to play for Canada. Of course, the best example of this was when Alphonso Davies, a Liberian citizen by birth, chose to become a Canadian citizen in 2017.
Davies, who plays for Bayern Munich, is one of the best left-backs in the world, and his brilliant goal against Panama is already etched in Canadian soccer lore.
On November 23rd, Canada will hope to carry that momentum into their World Cup opener against Kevin de Bruyne and Belgium, currently ranked 2nd in the world. It will be a tall task, but the fact millions across Canada will spend their winter focused on soccer instead of hockey is a scenario that was unthinkable just a few years ago.
The Mushroom: Reishi
Reishi mushrooms have long been praised for their multitude of benefits, and recent explorations have focused both on its beneficial impact on the liver and its supportive role for immune health, arthritis relief, and high blood pressure.[v]
As well, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, a polysaccharide extract of the Reishi mushroom was found to significantly reduce fatigue while increasing a positive sense of well- being.[vi]
So, while you may never be in the same situation as Canadian Olympic hero Julia Grosso, the penalty kicks you’ll take in your local league might feel just as important.
In those situations, Reishi mushrooms will dial back the intensity and help you remain calm as you approach the spot.
The Sport: Dodgeball
You know the drill. Line up the balls in the middle, go get them, and throw them at anyone on the other side of the gym.
If you have conflicted memories of playing dodgeball when you were younger, you aren’t alone. Dodgeball has recently become central to an impassioned debate on whether it has a positive or negative impact on school-aged children.
Still, within the adult population, the game is thriving as a desire for competition, fond memories of a classic film, and the advent of “no sting” ammo have encouraged many to give dodgeball a second chance. After all, there’s plenty we didn’t like as kids that we end up appreciating as adults.
To wit, by 2024 the World Dodgeball Association (WDA) projects to support over 90 million players from 70 different nations, and the upcoming World Dodgeball Championships in Edmonton will feature over 90 teams from at least 13 different countries, making it the largest competition in the sport’s history.
Meanwhile, a record 46 teams competed in the 2022 European Championships with apparent world power Northern Ireland claiming titles in the men’s and mixed divisions, and Austria taking their 5th consecutive women’s title.
In the end, if you believe reigniting a flame you once had - or finding love with something you used to despise - shouldn’t just be limited to Nicholas Sparks novels, then dodgeball might be for you!
The Star: Annika Jedlicka
In a sport where the best players remain mostly anonymous while giving off major Stars: They’re Just Like Us vibes, Annika Jedlicka stands out.
She’s been playing competitively for over a decade, and has competed a dozen times internationally for Austria, including as part of Austria’s powerhouse women’s team that has won the last five European Championships and a silver medal at the 2018 Dodgeball World Cup in New York City. The story of their experience in New York is told here.
As well, as an IOC Young Leader, she ensures her charitable endeavors keep pace with her dodgeball career and, who knows, maybe she will help the WDA reach their goal of having dodgeball in the Summer Olympics by 2028.
If that happens, her and her teammates will get the attention they truly deserve.
The Mushroom: Turkey Tail
Vitamin rich with many medicinal properties, Turkey Tail have long been valued for doing the heavy lifting within your immune support regimen.
Studies have revealed many chemical compounds in Turkey Tail produce anti-inflammatory outcomes while also inducing analgesic (pain relief) effects.[vii]
Described by researchers as ‘nature’s way to resolve inflammation’, lipoxins have been increasingly studied for their anti-inflammatory properties. More specifically, mushroom derived lipoxins – including those in Turkey Tail - have shown neuroprotective qualities while also presenting as an emerging treatment for the resolution of inflammation.[viii]
There’s an old adage in sports that says the best ability is availability and that’s ultimately where Turkey Tail shines.
Maybe you can’t dodge every ball thrown your way, but you can prep your immune system to duck the things that may keep you out of the game.
Written by Jared Stevens
[i] Woodruff, Dr. Allan, and Jurgen Goth. “What Is the Blood-Brain Barrier?” Queensland Brain Institute - University of Queensland, 25 July 2022, https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/what-blood-brain-barrier.
[ii] Ryu, S. H., Hong, S. M., Khan, Z., Lee, S. K., Vishwanath, M., Turk, A., Yeon, S. W., Jo, Y. H., Lee, D. H., Lee, J. K., Hwang, B. Y., Jung, J.-K., Kim, S. Y., & Lee, M. K. (2021). Neurotrophic isoindolinones from the fruiting bodies of Hericium erinaceus. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 31, 127714–127714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2020.127714
[iii] Song, Jingjing et al. “Studies on the Antifatigue Activities of Cordyceps Militaris Fruit Body Extract in Mouse Model.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine 2015 (2015): 174616–174616. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/174616/
[iv] Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. & Jia-shi, Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 10, 187–192 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02836405.
[v] Liang C, Tian D, Liu Y, Li H, Zhu J, Li M, Xin M, Xia J. Review of the molecular mechanisms of Ganoderma lucidum triterpenoids: Ganoderic acids A, C2, D, F, DM, X and Y. Eur J Med Chem. 2019 Jul 15;174:130-141. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2019.04.039. Epub 2019 Apr 20. PMID: 31035236.
[vi] Tang W, Gao Y, Chen G, Gao H, Dai X, Ye J, Chan E, Huang M, Zhou S. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia. J Med Food. 2005 Spring;8(1):53-8. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2005.8.53. PMID: 15857210.
[vii] Hung, P.-H., Lin, C.-M., Tsai, J.-C., Hsu, T.-H., Chang, S.-L., Chen, Y.-I., & Tzeng, C.-Y. (2020). Acetylsalicylic acid-like analgesic effects of Trametes versicolor in Wistar rats. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 129, 110328–110328. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2020.110328 OPEN
[viii] Trovato, A., Siracusa, R., Di Paola, R., Scuto, M., Fronte, V., Koverech, G., Luca, M., Serra, A., Toscano, M. A., Petralia, A., Cuzzocrea, S., & Calabrese, V. (2016). Redox modulation of cellular stress response and lipoxin A4 expression by Coriolus versicolor in rat brain: Relevance to alzheimer's disease pathogenesis. NeuroToxicology, 53, 350–358. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuro.2015.09.012