Most seniors want to live active, healthy and independent lives for as long as possible – a life that allows them to enjoy many years of travel, hobbies like gardening and walking, shopping, and visits with friends and family wherever they may be.
Good nutrition and a healthy mindset are two important foundations to achieving this goal. The third vital aspect is maintaining a regular schedule of daily physical activity and there are several sports for seniors to play safely.
Physical and Mental Benefits of Sports and Exercise at any Age
Whether you are 3 years old or 103 years old, participation in sports and exercise will help develop and maintain muscle mass and strength, increase flexibility, balance, and co-ordination, and improve mood and mental health. Adding social activities to the sports and exercises you do further strengthen the benefits.
Research shows that, especially for seniors, building regular activity into your daily life decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type-2 Diabetes, dementia, falls, stiff joints and depression. Medical and fitness experts recommend 150 weekly minutes of physical activity for all people, which translates into 20 minutes of aerobic activity each day, or three 50-minute sessions each week.
What is aerobic activity? Whenever you see the word aerobic, think cardio and heart. Aerobic activities increase oxygen levels that flow throughout your body, with the heart being the main engine. Exercising your heart through physical activity leads to overall body benefits.
Resistance exercises (muscle strengthening) are also important for maintaining strong bones and muscles. Most sports and exercises combine the benefits of both cardio and resistance.
Impressive Examples of Canadian Seniors Enjoying and Excelling at Sports
Ian Miller, 63, of Perth, ON is an equestrian also known as “Captain Canada.” He competed in a record-setting 10 Olympics Games, winning a Silver Medal in 2012.
Rod Waterlow, 82, of Vancouver, BC is the oldest qualifier for the 2020 Boston Marathon. In his lifetime, Rod has completed 100 half-marathons and 34 full marathons and continues to train three times a week.
Fay Richardson, 79, of Regina, SK is the oldest ballet student at the Youth Ballet of Saskatchewan Dance Club. Fay took up ballet at age 45. As a result, she hasn’t stopped dancing since.
Ethel Morley, 100, of Vancouver, BC is the oldest bowler on at Commodores Lanes. She is so committed to bowling that she celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends at the bowling alley.
10 Popular Choices for Senior Sports and Physical Fitness & Benefits Provided
If joining Canada’s Olympic Team or running the next Boston Marathon are not on your bucket list, no worries, a wide variety of fun, interesting and affordable sports are available for seniors to do, some seasonal, others year-round, and all likely in or near your community.
Try one or try a few to discover where your skills and passion lie.
- Swimming -reduces impact on joints, good for arthritis pain, and building lung power
- Cycling – low impact on joints; provides fitness with the bonus of serving as a means of transport
- Walking -an excellent, inexpensive and convenient form or aerobic exercise anywhere, anytime
- Golf– combines walking, balance, strength, concentration and focus with strong social benefits
- Bowling – improves flexibility, strength, focus; is fun and enhances social connections
- Yoga/Tai Chi – low impact, improves focus and flexibility, mental well-being and physical strength
- Pickleball – fun, new social sport (combines tennis and badminton); good aerobic workout
- Dancing – improves memory, mood, and balance, combined with fun and social benefits
- Curling – improves core and overall strength, focus, and concentration. Highly social
- Gym Membership – provides the ultimate in customization of activities, includes a wide variety of classes, cardio and resistance machines, pool, massage services and more, depending on the gym.
|1.||Swimming||$||Alone or classes||Year-round||Swimsuit, goggles (optional)||no|
|2.||Cycling||$||Alone or clubs||Spring-Summer-Fall||Bike, helmet, proper attire||yes|
|3.||Walking||$||Alone or group||Year-round||Proper shoes & seasonal attire||no|
|4.||Golf||$$$||Pairs, foursomes, leagues||Spring-Summer-Fall||Clubs, balls, shoes, proper attire, cart (optional)||yes|
|5.||Bowling||$$||Alone, leagues||Year-round||Ball, shoes, uniform (optional)||yes|
|6.||Yoga/Tai Chi||$||Alone, classes||Year-round||Mat, proper attire||no|
|7.||Pickleball||$||1v1 or 2v2||Year-round||Racket & balls, proper shoes||yes|
|8.||Dancing||$||Classes||Year-round||Proper shoes & attire||no|
|9.||Curling||$$||Team||Winter||Broom, proper shoes & attire||yes|
|10.||Gym||$$||Alone, classes||Year-round||Proper shoes and attire||no|
Gadgets to Help Track Activity and Progress in Sports for Seniors
Fitness Trackers – You’ve decided to try something new or resume something you played as a child or teen. Why not keep track of your efforts? A simple pen-and-paper list or calendar will certainly work.
You can also download free apps on your cell phone, or you can buy separate devices that monitor daily steps and stairs taken, heart rates, walking speed and routes. Many active people enjoy and feel motivated by the feedback provided by fitness trackers, and often use it to brag to family and friends.
In conclusion, consider getting a personal alarm or medical alert device, particularly if you plan long walks or cycling ventures off the beaten track. Inexpensive personal alarms will emit loud sounds when activated, while medical alert devices will use GPS technology to help alert family and emergency responders to your exact location.
Financial Support for Senior Athletes
New and current senior athletes can enjoy no or low-cost group physical activities conveniently in their communities. Some examples:
- Some local churches offer free group fitness classes for members and visitors. Call around.
- Community Senior Centres offer low annual membership rates (some as low as $30/year), which include access to fitness classes year round
- The YMCA offers income-based memberships and subsidies to qualified members
- Private gyms usually offer seniors’ discounts
- Local school boards, colleges and universities offer reduced tuition rates for students aged 65+ taking special interest courses such as dancing and golf
- The Niagara Region offers free Adult Day Programs and a Healthy, Safe, and Strong Exercise program
Important Considerations Prior to Starting Any New Activity
Check with your doctor, who will explain how existing conditions or medications may interact with your planned activity.
Carry a cellphone with fully charged battery – for safety, and in case weather takes an unexpected turn.
When starting something new, ask about required or suggested safety equipment, such as helmets, walking sticks, wrist or ankle supports, knee pads, etc. Always wear appropriate footwear.
Ease into any new activity: increase your minutes, speed and strength as you gain confidence and skill. In just a few weeks, with sustained effort, you will be amazed at the progress you’ve made, and you’ll notice the positive effects on your mind and body.
The first step on the path to good health and an active long life is by saying, “I can do this.” Get started now and find the best sports for seniors on.