The Best Sports For Older Adults

The Best Sports For Older Adults

According to a study from 2019 that examined close to 15,000 people, burning calories reduces the risk of death. The results indicated that burning an extra calorie per kilogram of bodyweight per day reduced the risk of death by 24%. If you weigh 200 pounds, you can reduce your risk of death by nearly a quarter if you simply burn 90 more calories per day. All you have to do is walk just over half a mile to do that!

There are two essential components to thriving with age: maintain lower-body functional strength and lower-body functional power. “Functional” means moving in different patterns and under different stressors. Stepping up and down things in different directions or lifting weights in various positions and directions are great examples of functional training. Engaging in regular physical activity that helps build strength in the legs, then, is ideal if you want better quality of life as you age

You can do functional movements in the gym, at home, or on a court or field playing sports. In the older population, there are great cognitive and social benefits that accompany the physical benefits of sport. Avoiding isolation as you age can help slow mental and physical decline. It can be intimidating to learn a new sport, especially if you don’t classify yourself as an athlete. Fortunately, the following sports typically have very welcoming communities, so you can experiment with one or more of them to see which you like. 


Whether you want to take salsa lessons or learn to line dance, dancing is an exciting exercise that offers all the benefits of walking, and then some. Not only do you get to learn moves and have fun, but you also get to burn some calories. Dancing requires you to move laterally, taking crossover steps, in addition to moving forward and backward. That makes dance an agility-type activity, which helps perfect balance to protect you from falls. Dancing also forces you to remember the steps and patterns, which keeps you sharp between the ears

Tai Chi

If you have ever passed a park in somewhat warmer weather, you have probably seen a group of older people practicing Tai Chi. This form of gentle exercise involves specific, controlled movements, which you shouldn’t sleep on. Tai Chi is a low-impact exercise, making it very accessible for all levels of activity. A lot of the movements help to improve mobility and over 500 studies have found that Tai Chi can improve balance. Plus, studies also indicate that it benefits people with mental health challenges, such as depression.


You knew that this sport was going to be on the list, right? Although pickleball is not a new sport, it surged to popularity within the last five years. The Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s annual report found pickleball to be the easiest racket sport to learn. That same report found that it has grown 158.6% within the last three years. Not only is pickleball fun and a great form of cardiovascular exercise, but it also improves agility, mobility, wrist dexterity, and upper body strength

Croquet And Bocce

You may not qualify lawn games as sports, but these backyard social activities offer some sneaky health benefits. Tossing a ball, bending over to pick up the ball, or swinging a mallet require shoulder and hip mobility, core strength, and stability. Bending over to pick up the balls can prove problematic for some older people, which is why practicing proper form is essential. Do not round the back; rather, hinge at the hips and bend your knees. Regularly bending down to pick up the balls is a very functional movement that you can incorporate into everyday life.


Is it a cliche to suggest golf to an older crowd? When you consider the benefits of golf that extend beyond walking, then it isn’t. Golf is 100% outdoors, and moving outside has been associated with both mental and physical health benefits. An actual golf course requires you to walk over various contours of surface, terrain, and you may have to step over things or walk up and down hills. Swinging the club can also improve trunk mobility and upper body strength.


As previously mentioned, any exercise that you can do outdoors comes with an added mental health boost. Research indicates that the external stimulus of being outside forces the brain to adapt and overcome; plus, there are environmental challenges to deal with. Swimming is not necessarily an outdoor sport, but it can be if you live in a warm enough place to swim in a lake or ocean. Swimming is also beneficial because the body is weightless in the water, which means that you don’t put unnecessary stress on the joints.



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