Finding Fun and Fitness in Lifelong Sports
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Some sports are mastered by the young. Others are embraced by those who are older. But a few select sports can be integrated into a person’s life at any age and can be enjoyed for many years. Swimming, tennis and golf are a few of these rare activities that allow participants to enjoy its benefits over the course of a lifetime.
Marni Kerner, Cooper Fitness Center Swim Pro, likes to say that swimming is a sport that can cross generations. “It is an activity that grandparents can do with their grandchildren, and husbands and wives can enjoy together,” she says. “When you’re in the water, everyone is on an even playing field.”
You’re never too young to start swimming – babies can learn to splash and float in the water, while men and women well into their 70s and 80s can use swimming to stay healthy and active. “At Cooper, there is a group of retired women who get together every day, put on their jogging belts, and jog in the pool while chatting and enjoying their time together,” says Marni.
For aging adults, swimming helps reduce inflammation and pain associated with joint problems like arthritis. Because you are essentially weightless in the pool, swimming does not strain the joints like land exercises might. Swimming helps increase circulation and can improve balance and flexibility. Swimming can also build endurance, cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. In addition, it can be a great stress reliever.
“If you have never been a swimmer, or if it has been a while since you’ve been in the water, taking lessons from a certified professional swim instructor is recommended,” says Marni. “But it’s never too late! A swim coach will help ensure proper mechanics are being used and can help enhance performance in the water.”
According to Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel, tennis is one of the few sports that you can start at any age and play competitively. Tournaments and leagues are separated by age division and/or skill level, which allows people to meet others on their same level of experience. “Tennis is a great way to maintain cardio fitness at any age,” says Corey. “As people age, they generally gravitate toward playing doubles for both the social aspect and to lessen the wear and tear on their bodies.”
Tennis is a full-body sport, meaning it will strengthen your upper body, lower body and core, which coincides with improving stamina and overall fitness. The best exercises to help enhance tennis performance are plyometrics or interval training, which is fast-paced exercise with short breaks in-between sets. Yoga and Pilates are also helpful for maintaining flexibility and mobility on the court.
“When you are transitioning your game as you age, it is important to not overdo it,” explains Corey. “It’s best to only play 90-120 minutes three days a week, and you should mix up your routine by playing doubles, singles, taking a private lesson or drill or hitting on a ball machine.” Leagues, tournaments, mixers and group lessons make tennis a very social sport, and playing with people at your skill level can boost your competitiveness.
If you haven’t played tennis in a while or are just beginning to play, Corey recommends taking a few lessons to get started. The sport is beneficial for players of all ages, but is ideal for people looking for a fun and competitive exercise program as they get older. “Tennis will keep you involved socially with others while mixing up your workout routine, and each match provides a new mental and physical challenge regardless of the age of the competitors.”
David H. Williams, Cooper Fitness Center Professional Trainer and Golf Fitness Specialist, notes that golf is an ideal lifelong sport because “you don’t have to compete with anyone else if you don’t want to, and you can play at your own pace.” The game of golf can be learned at any age, as long as time and effort are put into practicing and understanding the game.
“Golf keeps the body moving, which is the key to longevity,” says David. “But, golf can be demanding on the body, so it is important to find a knowledgeable teaching pro and fitness trainer to help you modify your game as you get older.” A balance of strength, mobility and stability training are required to safely enjoy golf, especially because mobility and stability tend to decline with age. This can cause a need to modify the golf swing, which can be accomplished through lessons and practice.
Golf is a social sport, as it is often played in groups of two to four people. This social aspect of the game, along with its ability to keep players moving even into their later years, makes golf an excellent form of exercise that can be performed at any age.
For more information about professional sport and fitness training at Cooper Fitness Center, please visit cooperfitnesscenter.com or call 972.233.4832.
Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.