Have you heard about the 85-year-old Canadian man who ran a marathon in 2016 in less than 4 hours? How about the 101-year-old Indian woman who won gold in the 100 metres sprint at the World Masters Games in Auckland? It’s easy to say about these inspiring senior citizens, “Oh they just have good genes,” or “They must have all the time in the world, I could never do that,” but the truth is, it’s never just about genetics and time.
With the will, effort, and motivation you derive from within, continuing to play sports well into old age is an absolute reality! If chronic pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, or other conditions are holding you back, know this – the risks of not exercising and eating well as you age far outweigh any risks that might come with staying active and exercising.
Exercise, including playing sports like tennis, swimming, cycling, and dancing, plays a crucial role in a variety of health functions including:
- Weight management
- Regulating blood pressure
- Preventing heart disease
- Combating cognitive decline
- Fighting bone loss
- Strengthening muscles
- Preventing diabetes
- Relieving back and joint pain
And the list goes on! Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, lungs and brain, it boosts blood circulation, it burns calories, and with regular practice, even releases endorphins, feel-good hormones, that promote positive moods and well-being.
Check out these top tips for maintaining your love of sports well into retirement:
Join a local group: Like-minded adults who share your interests for specific sports are just a click away. Services like Meetup.com connect you with others who are looking to get together to do something fun in person. Use their simple search feature to find hiking, swimming, backpacking, rock climbing, and runners groups, just to name a few, whom you can meet up with regularly to keep your passions going.
Use supportive tools and braces: Hitting the golf course or striking up a game of football might seem impossible with your carpal tunnel or chronic knee pain. Talk with your doctor about your ability to play and what supportive braces, wraps or tape might be beneficial to prevent inflammation and pain. For example, the best thumb spica splint your doctor recommends might be the solution for preventing hand pain from carpal tunnel when taking your turn at your favorite game.
Get your family in on the fun: Engaging in sports activities together might be just the ticket you need to connect with a son, daughter, or grandchild. Make playing tennis together a regular Saturday morning affair, and benefit not only from the physical activity but the mental stimulation and social interaction which bears its own psychological perks.
Enter a competition: Really want to challenge yourself when it comes to sports? Enter a competition like a 5k, marathon, Senior Olympics, ballroom dancing competition, or area events with sports contests that allow participants in your age group. In addition to reaping the benefits of regular training, competition can serve as a confidence booster, especially for older adults who are striving to remain independent.
Try something new: So you never really got into sports when you were younger? Retirement might just be the best age to try something new. Not only do you have more time and more motivation to maintain your weight and physical health, but learning something brand new does wonders for the brain. Take beginner’s ski lessons, attend a gentle yoga class, or simply hit the pool with your spouse or a friend. Learning and storing new information and memories strengthens brain synapses and can help combat cognitive decline associated with ageing.
Before you sign up for your first marathon, always talk with your healthcare provider about your own health condition and any limits that may apply to your physical activity. Staying safe while you stay active is of utmost importance, but because sports are so versatile and adaptable, you are bound to find an activity you love that keeps you moving well into your 90s!