Why You Should Try a new Sport in Your 50s…or 70s
Why You Should Try a new Sport as an adult
Why try new sports as an adult? If you’ve noticed your body getting weaker or less flexible as you age, you’re not alone. The signs of aging may be common, but are they a result of aging itself or a less active lifestyle?
Many of us start to slow down as we get older, but that doesn’t have to be true. In fact, more and more older Americans are taking up sports, including extreme sports.
Why try new sports as an adult? We asked Andy Klein, DC, director of the Human Performance Center at NWHSU.
Why try new sports as an adult
Can trying a new sport or exercise routine slow aging? There’s no definitive answer to this question.
“As we age, there are certain physiological changes,” explained Dr. Klein. “We seem to get weaker, a process called sarcopenia. We tend to get tighter; our connective tissue tends to get a little more inflexible. We’re not sure how much of it is aging and how much of it is sedentary activity.”
Whether it can slow aging or not, there are many benefits to regular physical activity. The CDC reports that physical activity can reduce your risk of cognitive decline (including dementia), reduce anxiety and depression, help you sleep better, reduce the risk of some cancers, and add years to your life.
Staying active might look different than it did in our teens and twenties, but if it could do all of that, why not try a new sport as an adult?
Don’t Be Afraid of Intensity
Aerobic exercises such as walking are the most common exercise for older adults. That doesn’t mean walking is the only, or even the best, option. Variation is key, and most people overlook one of the most important pieces: strength training.
“I think people, especially when we get older, need to increase strength more,” Dr. Klein said. “You really should look into some sort of resistance training two times a week, where you’re lifting and stimulating the muscles and trying to increase your strength.”
Resistance training and strength training don’t necessarily need to include barbells, heavy weights, and cumbersome gym equipment. Elastic bands and a set of light dumbbells can be a great start to get in the rhythm and technique of strength training. If you’re intimidated, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist or sports chiropractor can help you make a plan and get started.
“In general as we get older, we’re a little bit afraid of going into more intense range,” Dr. Klein said. “But if you’re doing moderate intensity, you want to do anywhere between 150-300 minutes per week. If you’re doing something more vigorous, that cuts it in half to 75-150 minutes per week.”
Try New Things and Make it Fun
The best way to stay active is to make it something you want to do. Everyone’s interests are different, so try a few new things and see what you like!
Dr. Klein shared a few ideas to get you started:
- Golf. Golf is a low impact activity that can include an aerobic element of walking throughout the course—if you forego a golf cart.
- Dance. Dance classes—or even just turning music on in the living room—are a fun option for movement.
- Pickleball. Pickleball is all the rage, and for good reason! There are many courts and leagues in the Twin Cities and around the country.
- Hiking or Cycling. Getting out into nature while you exercise is a win-win.
- Team Sports. Many communities now have leagues specifically for older adults, including soccer, softball, and more.
No matter what you choose, ensure you make modifications for what fits your style, likes, and fitness level. Dr. Klein shared three important things to remember when you’re deciding:
- Do what you enjoy.
- Start at your current fitness level.
- Think about your goals.
For example, with golf, you might hit balls at the driving range, then add in a few walks a week. Eventually you’ll be ready to do repetitive golf swings and walk the course.
Exercise isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Whatever you choose, Dr. Klein suggests mentioning the new routine to your medical provider first.
Aging is inevitable, but you respond to it is up to you. You can make your exercise routine something you’re going to enjoy for years.