Exercise your heartstrings...

Getting fit is good for the body and mind. And what's more, says Brian Schofield, there's no better way to meet people
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The Independent Online

It seems another name needs to be added to the long and distinguished list of British institutions which don't work any more – the singles market. There have never been so many single people in this country, but they will all tell you that it's never been harder to meet someone. If any real market peddled its produce half as inefficiently, the council would shut it down.

It seems another name needs to be added to the long and distinguished list of British institutions which don't work any more – the singles market. There have never been so many single people in this country, but they will all tell you that it's never been harder to meet someone. If any real market peddled its produce half as inefficiently, the council would shut it down.

It gets even tougher if the "good heart" you're searching for has to have a low resting pulse and strong valves. If you're a sporty, health-conscious singleton, you face a tricky task in finding a partner to share your interests in a nation where inactivity and sloth are the norm – a tragic 80 per cent of British people have given up organised sport by the age of 21. But don't abandon hope and settle for a slob; there are plenty of tricks and tactics available if you want to snare an active soulmate.

Pick the right gym

Gyms may have been the singles clubs of the Eighties, but that was then. Nowadays, the vogue is for huge city-centre health clubs packed with lunch-break pounders who don't want to chat. If you want a more sociable experience, look for a smaller gym with a community feel and a commitment to social functions. It's a good sign if the staff seem to know everyone's name. The masters of the introductory art are David Lloyd Leisure. Dan Waugh, their marketing manager, explains: "The difference is that our clubs all have bars and restaurants, where people can relax and look their best. Who wants to meet someone while they're dripping with sweat?" For more information and club locations, visit www.davidlloydleisure.co.uk

Sign up for the Fight Club

Nothing breaks the ice like clubbing someone to pieces while wearing giant foam shoes, so it's no wonder that kick-boxing and martial arts classes are the source of numerous relationships. Rafael Nieto, senior instructor at Zen-Do Martial Arts, says it's all about intensity. "In a funny way, kick-boxing is like war: you find out what people are really like, and it forges strong bonds. We've had marriages from our club, but also lifelong friendships, even people just getting a discount on their plumbing." He suggests picking a club with a "flat" hierarchy, where senior members and instructors help out beginners. Contact Zen-Do Martial Arts on 020 7723 0206.

Be a joiner

Whatever sport you play, there's a big difference between being in a team and joining a club. An established sports club will have a real social side – clubhouse nights, Christmas dinners, men's and women's teams and annual tours. Obviously, mixed team sports such as softball and korfball have clear benefits, but a rough survey has exposed the following as the best marriage material, thanks to well-organised merrymaking: rowing, hockey, sailing, swimming and athletics. For confirmation, ask anyone who has been inside an Olympic village, or visit www.ara-rowing.org, www.hockeyonline.co.uk, www.rya.org.uk, www.britishswimming.org or www.ukathletics.org

Buy a few magazines

Many specialist sports and hobby titles, from Birdwatching to Dive Monthly, are opening up "WLTM" columns. Trail, the outdoor-sports magazine, recently celebrated their first wedding after a couple found love in the classifieds. Their "Trail Mates" section has become so popular it has spawned that most terrifying of offspring – a regular singles night.

Show some charity

Fund-raising treks are as much as 90 per cent solo travellers, according to Helen Molyneux, events manager at Barnado's: "It's something most people resolve to do on their own. There's never been more than one couple on a trek I've been on, and nobody knows each other at the start. If you're single, it's ideal." The charity Scope has heard from no fewer than nine happy couples who first met on one of their treks. For details of some of this year's treks, visit www.barnados.org.uk or www.scope.org.uk

 

Start walking

There is no doubt which activity is most welcoming of mature singles – country walking. Every Sunday the nation's wilder spots are swamped with walking clubs, and this Gore-Tex mafia brings countless people together. Eric Perks, ofBrintons Walking Club in Worcestershire, regularly attends weddings of couples who met on his walks. "We get around 70 walkers each weekend; if people come on their own they tend to meet someone soon enough." Visit www.bwf.ivv.org.uk or www.ramblers.org.uk

Enjoy your holiday

Singles holidays can be as dreadful as they sound, but salvation can be found in sports-camp holidays. Whether you want to improve your golf, surfing, tennis or yoga, the daily structure of training sessions, plus the natural shared interest, will stop you from ending up alone on a barstool. Sunsail watersports camps have reinforced their singles-friendly status by abolishing the sole-occupancy supplement at their livelier camps outside school holidays. "We have a strong tradition of people getting hitched," says spokesman Chris Clode. Call 0239222 2222 or visit www.sunsail.com

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