Top 5 Healthy Hobbies to Try in New Zealand

If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand and are looking for ways to immerse yourself in local culture, start with these traditional leisure activities. Not only will these Kiwi pastimes introduce you to the glorious New Zealand landscape but they can help you feel fit and healthy on the road.

What do New Zealanders know about health and fitness? The country was ranked 2nd of 20 nations for life expectancy in a global comparison and topped the Legatum Prosperity Index, a report which calculates national performance in health.

Regardless of your age and fitness level, our top five Kiwi leisure activities are proven to have plentiful physical, mental and social benefits.

5. Hill Walking


Boffins at the American College of Sports Medicine claim that a mere 30 minutes of cardio vascular exercise five times a week brings health benefits, and 60 to 90 minutes contributes to weight loss. The average traveller can also expect to burn up to four times the amount of calories when upping the incline on a walk.

The entire body feels the effects: muscle groups grow stronger; blood pumps faster around the body. If you’re taking a well-known path in New Zealand’s backcountry, expect to be on your feet for up to 7 hours. Always be prepared with protective clothing, accessories and water prior to setting off from your hostel or lodge.

Where to try it: everywhere! Check out Te Araroa, Great Walks, or Walking and Hiking hostels.

4. Horse Riding

Animal lovers will naturally warm to horse riding in the New Zealand countryside, although this leisure activity is suitable for all comers. 

Horse Riding

Such is its popularity that 5% of adults in have participated in equestrian sports in New Zealand at least once in the past 12 months.

From the lower legs, through your core, to your arms, horse riding works the entire body. Those who saddle up regularly will notice a marked difference in their posture and balance. Horse riding can help improve mental concentration and clear the mind of daily distractions that may otherwise lead to stress or anxiety.

A number of stables offer one-off riding rates or treks for travellers.  Well worth taking advantage of to explore New Zealand’s glorious scenery.

Where to try it: just about anywhere, but places like Punakaiki or Golden Bay make for particularly special rides.

3. Skiing

GlacierNo trip to New Zealand is complete without a day in the snow. For around half of the year those with a thirst for high altitude exploration can test themselves against the great outdoors by getting amongst the snow-capped mountains.

Skiing puts all major muscle groups to the test, chiefly targeting the inner and outer thighs, hamstrings and buttock muscles - this owes much to the crouching position that skiing involves.

Experts state that just one hour of skiing can burn around 400 calories. In addition to weight loss and muscle toning, skiing is known for boosting immunity and relieving the symptoms of depression.

Where to try it: check out our full list of snow hostels here.

2. Surfing

SurfSome say the best sports in life are free, and we do not disagree. Surfing combines both social and healthy living benefits, and with over 15,000 kilometres of coastline in New Zealand, there’s no shortage of opportunity to get stuck in.

Surfing works the core like few other sports can - no muscle group is spared in the craft of riding waves against the current. People who take up surfing can expect a leaner and stronger physique; carrying a surf board to and from the beach is a workout in itself!

The sport is also praised for its therapeutic ability. Many health experts claim that it works well for helping people manage bouts of depression.

Where to try it: YHA Ahipara and Raglan are hotspots, among our other surf hostels.

1. Rugby

Rugby is considered by many NZ’s national sport, but you don’t have to be a professional to channel Dan Carter. 


Rugby can be practised outdoors any time of day, with over 150,000 Kiwis lacing up their boots each year.

Whether you’re staying in a dorm or journeying through the backcountry, there will no doubt be a rugby ball nearby. Learn a Haka or get your war cry on and invite your comrades to stretch their legs with a game.

Rugby relies partly on physical strength, but also flexibility, cardio fitness, speed and endurance. And don’t worry about people playing rough – touch rugby is a lower contact version of the sport that’s easy to get into. The team bonding environment that rugby is synonymous with can boost self-confidence and help lower stress levels.

Where to play: anywhere there’s a field and some friendly strangers, aka your new dorm buddies!

Research and sources courtesy of: and

YHA Ohakune

Snowsport Spots


Adrenaline Activities

Tim Marshall - Raglan

Surf Hostels