Aging Options

Got game? Promoting successful aging through competitive sports

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The sad fact is that if you’re looking for your best chance of winning a medal in any sport in the Olympics, your window of opportunity was when you were between the ages of 20 and 30 years old.

If you’re over 50 and you want to earn a medal in the Olympics, your best bet would be to compete in archery, sailing, shooting and equestrian events where your lack of speed isn’t likely to impact your chances. And while seven people over the age of 50 competed for the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics, no one over the age of 50 has won a medal recently. But, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with being an armchair competitor. Luckily, the youngsters can’t compete in the Washington State Senior Olympics and that clears the way for you.

Study after study tells us that staying (or getting) physically active and exercising regularly can prevent or delay disease and disability, manage stress and improve your mood. Studies also indicate exercise is an effective way to improve or maintain cognitive function. In fact the Mayo Clinic says that exercise is your best bet for avoiding Alzheimer’s disease. One study that looked at mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s-type plaque in the brain found that physically active mice had 50 to 80 percent less plaque than sedentary mice.

For women especially, participating in senior sports may be the first time they’ve participated in any sport because Title IX, the 1972 measure that outlawed sex discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal financial assistance, didn’t exist while they attended school or college. Even for those women who attended schools with sports programs for women, women were often considered too fragile to play strenuous sports and unable to buck up against the strain of serious competition. Medical professionals warned women and occasionally men of the possibility of injury to organs while exercising. In the 1930s, doctors were still warning women that certain sports could harm a woman’s reproductive system and it wasn’t until the 1984 Olympics that women were allowed to run in the marathon.

Now, it seems, everyone is extolling the virtues of being in shape and taking off some weight. To obtain the most benefit requires vigorous and frequent participation. In other words, you need competition. Just as competition in the market place is good for driving innovation and greater choice, athletic competition drives performance, development and perhaps most importantly, competition eliminates boredom from exercise routines. It also generates a drive to learn and master new skills and to pursue improvement of old skills.

Each state in the United States holds Senior Games for individuals 50 and over. Those who qualify at the state competitions are eligible to participate in the biannual nation games. The Washington State Senior Games is in its 18th year. The multi-sport event will be held in July of this year at various sites throughout the South Sound and expects 2,000 participants in 20 events including Archery, Racquetball, Rock Climbing and Track and Field events. This year is a national qualifying year. For more information on the Washington State Senior Games, call (360) 413-0148.

Participation in the games is a year-round effort so there’s plenty of time to get your game face on. Here’s a link for more information.


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