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How Senior Sports Leagues Benefit Older Adults

There is no doubt that many senior citizens live very active lives. Entering the golden years and beyond, seniors have consistently proven that retirement is not a static experience, but one in which they can continue to enrich themselves in various ways. Nowadays, seniors can use their free time to take part in any number of activities, including sports!

Senior citizens and sports are a fabulous combination. There are many wonderful organizations that foster senior involvement in sports. These senior sports leagues are a great way to combine exercise and fun with a number of notable benefits, including increased physical and mental health. We can all remember the fun of joining our Little League teams, appreciating both the fun of the game, but also the company of our teammates. Why not carry that great experience into adulthood and beyond?

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Seniors and Sports Leagues

There is an endless assortment of senior sports leagues, ranging from the National Senior Games Association to Senior Softball to Wii bowling. Whatever athletic event you can think of, there is likely a senior sports league for it.

The National Senior Games Association (NSGA) represents one of the most noteworthy senior sports leagues, as well as the largest multi-sport games for older adults in the world. Formed in 1985, the NSGA is a nonprofit organization committed to encouraging senior citizens to live a healthy lifestyle. Anyone over 50 is allowed to participate. Today, the games are held bi-annually and feature 19 events, including Archery, Cycling, and Swimming, to name a few. The 2015 games, held last July in Minnesota, boasted over 12,000 attendees.

Juxtaposed with the classic, Olympic-style senior games is Wii Bowling, an Internet bowling league hosted by the National Senior League (NSL). This is a more modern version of a senior sports league – incorporating a digital and online element to socializing and play. Seniors sign up and form teams of 4 in their local communities. Then, they can play against other teams throughout the country with their Wii or Nintendo virtual bowling games. Currently, 1,563 seniors are members of the NSL, stretching across 30 states. From the ancient to the modern, senior sports leagues have got it covered.

Health Benefits of Senior Sports Leagues

The benefits of senior sports leagues stretch far and wide. Exercise improves not just physical health, but also mental and emotional health. There are many noteworthy positive impacts on seniors who participate in sports leagues.

The physical benefits of playing sports are among the most obvious but are also among the most notable. A 2014 Danish study found that men between the ages of 63 to 75 reaped many physical benefits from engaging in soccer training 2 hours per week for a year over those of the same age who did not. These benefits included increased oxygen intake and better performance.

Additionally, exercise also helps with weight control and heart health and is even linked to increasing longevity of life.

There are also many mental health benefits of sports worth highlighting. Golf has shown to improve concentration among the elderly, increasing their alertness and focus, two skills that are very important to keep intact well into old age. The odds of developing a mental illness, such as depression or dementia, is also lower among seniors who are physically active.

Participating in sports leagues also help to combat feelings of isolation and low self-value that often arise in old age. Participation in team or individual sports have proven to increase self-esteem; seeing the positive results of hard work can improve morale and foster a greater purpose in life, which is especially important to maintain for people of a certain age.

In Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is actually encouraging socialization as a form of care for its senior citizens. The logic is that those who are more connected to their communities fall ill less often as they feel the comforts of belonging and companionship. Seniors participating in sports leagues can develop these social networks that can help combat the feelings of isolation that often arise in old age.

Where can active seniors find a senior sports league?

There are many senior sports leagues throughout the country. The NSL allows seniors to play in their local communities once they have developed a team. In addition to the biannual national games, the NSGA also hosts annual state games that interested seniors can look into. The Senior Softball League also hosts countless events throughout the nation.

These organizations represent just a few of the endless possibilities for sports league involvement among seniors. For more information on a local level, seniors should locate their local community center and see what options they can present. Seniors and sports are a great pair, joined by goals of health, friendship, and most of all, fun!