Thursday, January 25, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 25, 2001

New Advertiser series
10 reasons for getting active outdoors

No. 10: Volleyball provides vigorous workout

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

What to do, what to do?

A swim at Kaimana Beach? Rollerblading at Waterfront Park? A round of golf beneath the shadow of the Koolaus?

Perhaps you would prefer hang gliding off Makapuu or night surfing at Diamond Head? How about skiing down Mauna Kea. Or kayaking down the Ala Wai Canal?

OK, scratch that last one.

For many Island residents, quality of life can be measured in direct proportion to how much time we have to enjoy Hawaii’s unique outdoor life. And why not? With stunning geographic diversity and mild, temperate weather year-round, the islands are bounding with recreational opportunities.

Of course, not all outdoor activities were created equal. Some build health and fitness, others put you at risk of life and limb. Some are best enjoyed in the green of youth, others you can play for a lifetime.

So just what are the best outdoor activities in Hawaii?

To find the answer, we consulted three eminently qualified health and fitness experts: Dennis Chai, a professor of kinesiology and leisure science at the University of Hawaii; Jeff Deininger, health and fitness director at the YMCA; and Angela Wagner, project manager for the state Department of Health’s Health Promotion and Education Branch and coordinator for Kahoomiki, Hawaii’s Council on Physical Activity.

Our panel was given the tricky task of identifying and ranking what they considered to be the 10 best outdoor activities in Hawaii, with special emphasis on health promotion, age appropriateness, cost, convenience, accessibility and that hard-to-define quality of "outdoor-ness."

Each of the experts brought a unique perspective to their selections.

For Chai, outdoor activities are an effective way to build and maintain good health, provided participants obtain the skills and conditioning necessary to perform each activity safely. His selections included numerous activities that could be adapted to participants of different fitness levels.

Deininger, who consulted with colleagues at the YMCA for his selections, looked for activities that were low in cost and high in health-related benefits. He also favored activities that could be enjoyed by the entire family.

Wagner paid close attention to issues of access and convenience, carefully considering the level of support provided by physical and organizational infrastructures. Wagner also factored in each activity’s cultural relevance in Hawai’i.

Our top 10, which we will reveal one at a time in the coming weeks, is an aggregate of their responses.

Obviously, our list can’t account for individual tastes, and each of our panelists made it a point to emphasize that any outdoor activity that contributes to your health and happiness is a good one. So, while golf may not burn as many calories as an ultramarathon, if you love the game enough to get outside and hit the links every weekend — and you avoid overindulging at the 19th hole — who’s to quibble?

Soccer, in-line skating miss cut

There were some notable omissions. Soccer was left off because it rated low in convenience (try finding 21 people for a pick-up game) and because, like softball, some field positions just don’t get enough action.

In-line skating was another near miss because of start-up expenses, the relative lack of safe skating paths in Hawaii, and the severity of injuries associated with skating accidents. Cost, accessibility and risk of injury were also concerns with surfing — which did make our list — but we thought the sport’s close relationship to the natural environment and its roots in Hawaiian culture more than compensated.

Tai Chi also missed the list, although our experts did agree that its program of disciplined movements, controlled breathing and held positions provided health benefits to practitioners of all ages.

Other activities we considered include ultimate Frisbee, flag football, bodyboarding, mountain biking, kayaking and hula.

If you have a question or comment about our list, e-mail us at

With that, we invite you to slather on the sunscreen and join us as we spend the next 10 weeks examining the Top 10 outdoor activities in Hawaii.

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