Competitive Sports Benefit Older Adults

Although sports are often an important and healthy activity for children and young adults, the belief persists that older adults no longer have the physical or mental ability to participate in competitive sports.  But as more seniors continue to stay physically active and engaged, there are growing opportunities for older adults to participate in competitive sports as well as recreational sports.  Sport can offer many benefits that include fitness, mental well-being, social interaction, and personal development. 

According to a recent McMaster Optimal Aging Portal blog post, although some ageist ideas carry on today, more sports federations are offering competitions at a national and international level for older adults.  Veteran or “master” competition events have grown significantly over the past 35 years – the World Masters Games hosts up to 30,000 athletes every four years and now includes both Winter and Summer events.

Research shows that adults over the age of 50 who have a competitive sports spirit are more encouraged to train harder to improve their personal best while competing with other athletes of a similar age.  Competitive sports offer older adults increased well-being, more endurance, a greater sense of independence, and less anxiety and depression.   Seniors who participate in competitive sports also enjoy the social aspect of their pursuit and take pleasure in being positive role models.  

Older adults who live where there is access to sports facilities and organizations at an affordable cost enjoy a greater sense of belonging and friendship.  Although older athletes are not always considered when governments and sports federations are developing policies, with greater awareness of the benefits of competitive sports, change is being implemented in more communities. 

As always, talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise program and choose a sport wisely based on age, health and interests.  Read more about the many competitive sports included in the USA Master Games here.  In Canada, visit the Canadian Masters Athletics website to find upcoming events and learn more.