Older Adults Need to Keep Participating in Sports for Physical, Psychological Health
By Ken Reed
The vast majority of Americans stop participating in competitive sports after high school, college at the latest. That’s not the case in other countries, where club sports organizations keep citizens active from 8 to 80.
It’s sad that American athletes throw in the towel so early on their sports careers. Moreover, it has negative ramifications for their physical and psychological health.
Joseph Baker is a professor of exercise science. For years, he wondered why some 70-year-olds could compete in triathlons while some got winded walking up a flight of stairs. He wanted to know if declining physically was simply the result of getting old or a result of becoming sedentary.
Baker studied senior team handball players and concluded:
“Their motor skills may have declined a bit, and they might be a little slower. But if they’ve kept up the practice, they can be as good as any elite athlete.”
He has done many other studies with masters athletes, those that are older than 35, with classifications every five years. He says the results of these studies indicate that even moderate physical activity leads to optimal physiological, psychological and social health.
Those are important findings because the common cultural stereotype in the United States is that people over 35 are “too old” to continue competing in athletics.
Baker and his colleagues are exploring the possibility that the slower movements of aging athletes might be attributed as much or more to practicing less as one gets older than it is aging.
A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise of masters athletes at the Hawaii Ironman triathlon (an event consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon) found that the top male finishers ages 60 through 64 were only a few minutes slower than the top 30-through 34-year-olds. The study concluded that the older athletes are “a fascinating model of exceptionally successful aging.”
“There was a time when many people thought you simply couldn’t be a serious athlete after your early 30s,” says Michael Joyner, M.D., a professor of physiology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. “That’s obviously not the case.”
So, what’s the only logical takeaway? Adults, whatever their age, need to get out there and play ball!
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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