These sports are ideal for people who want to remain fit well into their golden years
by Melissa Neiman
At the age of 51, Jeanne Erdmann tried something she hadn’t done in many decades: She strapped on a pair of figure skates and headed out onto the ice.
Soon, she was spending as much time as possible on her blades. The journey wasn’t always easy — in 2005, she broke both of her wrists while trying an ice dance. Seven months later, she broke her left wrist again.
But she stuck with it, and has been rewarded. As the Wentzville, Missouri, resident wrote in the Washington Post a few years ago:
“I think about why skating is my passion: the camaraderie; the mental boost after improving, even a little bit, a demanding move; and the fact that I’m much fitter and much stronger than I was 35 years ago.”
Erdmann’s story is proof positive you can still take up new activities — or resume old favorites — at age 50 and beyond.
If a sport that involves strapping on blades and walking onto ice is too intimidating for you, there are plenty of other options. We’ve rounded up some of the best sports for people who want to remain active well into their golden years.
Swimming is one of the very best sports for athletes of any age. It will give your cardiovascular system a workout while going easy on your joints and bones.
In fact, swimming may be something of a fountain of youth, according to researchers at the University of Indiana:
“[Researchers] found that regular and fairly intensive swimming substantially delayed the decline of such age markers as blood pressure, muscle mass, blood chemistry and pulmonary function.”
Want to unleash your inner Björn Borg or Martina Navratilova?
Yes, we assume that if you are reading this article, you remember when those tennis greats were in their prime. And while it’s probably too late to find yourself competing at Wimbledon, you still have plenty of time to enjoy tennis even if you are just now taking the court at age 50.
As a researcher at the University of North Carolina noted several years ago in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the health benefits of tennis for young and senior players alike are well-known:
“These health benefits are related to the general benefits of regular exercise participation including, but not limited to, higher aerobic capacities, lower resting heart rate and blood pressure responses, improved metabolic function, maintained or improved skeletal integrity, improved reaction time, and decreased stress reactivity.”
Golf is likely the game that springs to mind when imagining sports that people enjoy well into their golden years.
As an article at AZCentral.com notes, golf is a great sport for people who want to remain active but who may have minor health challenges, such as reduced muscle mass or arthritis — both of which are more common with age:
“Playing golf builds flexibility in the muscles and joints, because it requires a full range of motion to properly swing a golf club. It’s a sport of technique, not brute strength. Even casual golfers who play a couple of days a week could find themselves walking anywhere from four to eight miles.”
Biking is surprisingly popular with those over the age of 50. Between 1995 and 2009, riders in the 60-to-79 age group accounted for 37 percent of the nation’s total increase in bike trips, according to the organization PeopleForBikes.
The health benefits of biking are well-documented. If the sport piques your interest, touring companies such as Senior Cycling plan cycling trips for riders over 50, and websites such as Bicycle Riding For Boomers offer tips and advice.
No matter how fit you remain, eventually the body will slow down. Some more-active sports may then become less appealing, or even impossible to perform.
At that point, a slower-moving activity like yoga might be a great option. But in truth, adding yoga to your routine right now can have tremendous benefits. According to the iM Sports blog:
“Yoga can improve flexibility, endurance and concentration. It’s also low impact so it’s perfect for the AARP crowd or any crowd for that matter. We have it on authority that many NFL and NBA players, including LeBron James, practice yoga.”
Do you have a favorite sport that you started after age 50? Share your story by commenting below.