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Friendly Competition Can Boost Fitness

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Adding athletic competition to your fitness routine brings fun and social interaction that can keep you jazzed throughout life.

Just look at June’s National Senior Games. About 15,000 athletes over 50 will gather in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They will compete for medals in track and field events, plus volleyball, basketball, golf, pickleball and more.

Competitive events like this have a number of health benefits for folks over 50. They can raise the stakes, spur focus and determination, and encourage camaraderie and teamwork. All that adds to the fun. And if something is fun, like exercise disguised as play, then we’re all more likely to stick with it.

“While people are competing for medals, they are also pursuing their optimum health, which we say is your real personal best,” says Marc T. Riker, chief executive officer of the National Senior Games Association. “It's a lifelong journey that can begin for anyone, at any skill level, at any age.”

Key Health Benefits

Big events like the National Senior Games, and their regional qualifying rounds in alternate years, bring some people back to physical activity. They spur others to begin it for the first time. Either way, they’re a great motivator for exercise.

And they bring significant health benefits, too.

The NSGA reported in 2015 that athletic people had a "fitness age" 25 years younger than their chronological age. That was from a study developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The “fitness age” survey focused on risk factors associated with disease and disability. “People with a good Fitness Age tend to have lower waist sizes, higher aerobic capacity and optimally healthy lifestyle habits. All of these factors are taken into consideration in the calculation of the Fitness Age,” said Dr. Pam Peeke, a trustee of the games Foundation Board.

“The National Senior Games athletes are living proof that you can make a dramatic impact on slowing the aging process by staying fit.”

Also, participating in sports is good for accident prevention. The NSGA said results from Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) screenings reveal that just 10 percent of senior athletes suffer a fall each year – a third of the rate of the general population.

He Loves the ‘Shot of Adrenaline’

Mark Ritchie, 71, of West Lafayette, Indiana, will be participating in his first National Senior Games, racing in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. He attended his first regional qualifying event last year, where he saw a much bigger, more robust crowd of competitors than he expected.

“I was just shocked by the number of people there,” he said. “It’s an amazing event just in terms of getting people up.

“This is a significant thing. You go out there, you meet people, and you have a good time.

“The shot of adrenaline that you get is like a drug when they say on your mark, get set, go – It’s pretty exciting. We’re here in life to have some fun. It’s a sad thing if a person’s not having any fun.”

> Whether you want to compete with others or yourself, come see us about the right fitness plan for you.

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