Baby Boomers, who once fueled the growth of the fitness industry at a younger age, are increasingly turning to fitness activities, including athletic contests, in their later years. Increasing numbers over the age of 65, increasing life expectancy, changing attitudes toward seniors' fitness, and strongly encouraging older people to participate in sports could potentially lead to a large increase in the number of master and senior athletes. In fact, participation in sports competitions for seniors seems to be increasing. For example, every year more than 10,000 athletes compete in approximately 20 different categories at the National Senior Games, including Athletics, Swimming, Pickleball, Tennis, Basketball, Archery, Softball, Cycling, Triathlon and Volleyball. The increase in the older adult population and a growing interest in competition have led to a steady increase in the number of competitors in the oldest age groups (80+, 90+, 1
This, of course, represents a significant opportunity for health and exercise professionals interested in serving this population. Read on to learn more about some of the unique characteristics of this population and what you need to know to develop safe and effective training programs that help them achieve their competitive goals.
Senior Athlete Testing
Many fitness tests that are traditionally used for the elderly are geared towards a less-functioning population and have upper limit effects that occur when the test registers no improvements in a parameter. Unfortunately, other common fitness or sports assessments, such as a 40-yard punch or a vertical jump, may be inappropriate for some seniors and have bottom effects, resulting in a decline in one parameter that can not be registered (Jordre et al. 2013).
Dr. Becca Jordre from the University of South Dakota focused on addressing these issues by developing and validating a test battery called the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE). He has been collecting data on athletes at the National Senior Games for several years (Bardhoshi et al., 2016, Jordre, 2016). The SAFE consists of tests in five areas:
- Strength (sit five times, leave standing, handle dynamometry)
- Balance (single-leg position with open eyes / eyes closed / eyes on foam)
- Gait speed (common and fast)
- Flexibility (shoulder, hip, ankle)
Her research has yielded several insights into older athletes. For example, older athletes have a significantly lower level of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety compared to the general population of adults in their age group. They also show a consistently higher fitness compared to non-athletes (Jordre et al., 2016). Consider These Results:
- 90- to 99-year-old older athletes have superior leg strength compared to 60- to 69-year-old non-athletes.
- Only 10% of athletes report an annual fall compared to 30% of community residents.
- Older athletes have a similar walking speed as adults in their thirties.
- The flexibility of the shoulder is significantly greater in older athletes and decreases at a much lower speed than other athletes.
- Older athletes take a more sincere attitude compared to non-athletes.
While older athletes typically work at much higher levels than their less active counterparts, these individuals may still have weaknesses in one or more areas that are generally specific to them. Sport and exercise program. For example, Dr. Jordre found that archers had a superior walking speed and better balance compared to swimmers who outperformed shoulder flexion more than any other sport. During the competition, archers have to shoot at a station, retrieve their arrows, and quickly move to the next station, so they walk almost a mile in 40-60 meter increments, which is probably the reason for the speed and balance of the gait. The researchers also found that male swimmers have significantly higher levels of osteoporosis compared to other male athletes. This is not surprising since the time spent in the pool can be considered a "relief" of the bones (Jordre et al., 2016).
Because Older Athletes Tend to Highlight In areas specific to their sport, they should be encouraged to exercise outside of their favorite sports or activities. A tailor-made program should test the athlete to uncover his shortcomings and then address these areas with specific training strategies. The six functional areas of the Functional Aging training model can serve as a reference for a holistic training experience for these clients (see screenshot below).
Strength training does not appear to be sufficiently used in this group (comparable to non-athlete populations). Tests on 2,340 older athletes found that they performed cardiorespiratory exercises for an average of 5.5 hours per week, but only one hour per week of strength training or the equivalent of two 30-minute sessions per week. Although older athletes have higher upper and lower body strength, it may be beneficial for them to spend some more weight training each week (including balance training). This is especially true for sports that do not require heavy effort (Jordre et al., 2016).
Older athletes tend to exercise too hard and / or too often without sufficient recovery between sessions. Around half of the athletes surveyed said they had trained six to seven days a week. The time required for recovery increases with age. Remind your customers that there is enough time between intense workouts. In addition, the provision of recovery strategies such as adequate nutrition, hydration and sleep can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Bardhoshi, G. et al. (2016). Exercise and depression, anxiety and stress in athletes of the senior games. Subjects in geriatric rehabilitation, 32, 1, 63-71.
Jordre, B. (2016). Are your athletes SAFE? The Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE). GeriNotes 23, 1, 17-20.
B. Jordre et al. (2016). Case history and associated physical performance measurements in older competitive athletes. Subjects in geriatric rehabilitation, 32, 1, 1-16.
B. Jordre et al. (2013). The five times are tested by older athletes to the test. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 36, 1, 47-50.