3/16/2022 | By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

Older adults can participate in competitive athletics at many skill levels. The benefits of sports for seniors include camaraderie, health, and more.

It was the last game of the three-day ultimate Masters national championship in Denver last summer. Wayne Tang, a 55-year-old attorney in Chicago, looked around at his teammates, many of whom he had known for 15 or 20 years.

“Time with your peers is a very limited commodity as you get older,” says Tang, one of tens of thousands of older athletes who are ramping up their commitment to sports and fitness as they age. Besides the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, these seniors also tout the relationships, sense of belonging, and camaraderie associated with playing sports.

Many older adults are playing more than the stereotypical retirement sports of golf, pickleball, and bocce ball. Seniors are swimming, cycling, rowing, and running competitively – even competing in duathlons and triathlons – and playing everything from tennis, volleyball, and softball to basketball and soccer – all have a dedicated seniors or masters league open to anyone. No matter your skill level, you can find a suitable activity, one that fits your budget and can be adjusted to the changing needs of an older body.

Keeping score

senior runners during a race Photo by Rawpixelimages Dreamstime. Older adults can participate in competitive athletics at many skill levels. Benefits of sports for seniors are health, camaraderie, and more.

The payoffs of athleticism are readily apparent. Vigorous exercise for at least 90 minutes a week lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol, supports your good cholesterol, helps maintain bone density and improves your flexibility, medical research shows.

Think about whether you want to play with and compete against people your own age or of all ages. Possibly the most important consideration is avoiding injury. If you’re resuming exercise after a hiatus, take it slow.

Related: Tips for easing back into exercise

“Allow yourself to under-train, and be patient. Learn smart techniques, listen to your body, talk to your peers for help and advice,” suggests Amanda Scotti, executive committee officer for USA Track & Field. She recommends finding a coach skilled at training older athletes. “Be sure they understand your fitness level, possible goals and are, No. 1, a good listener.”

A lower level of intensity will help you stay active. Incorporate rest days into your training schedule and change up your exercises. Cross-training, strength exercises, and stretching help prevent injuries at any age but may be especially important for older athletes.

Related: Emily Kimball – Cycling after 50 brought adventure, camaraderie, and joy

Generally, the more serious you are about a sport, the more you’ll spend on equipment, clothing, and training or competition fees. You could self-organize with a group of volunteers or join a team with a paid coach. Other costs include your personal equipment, space for practices, league and club fees, tournaments, and travel expenses if you compete nationally. Sports like power walking and tennis can cost less than $100, whereas cyclists and archers often drop thousands on gear alone.

Under Medicare, some health expenses for staying fit may be covered, so check your plan. For example, Medicare Advantage and some supplemental Medicare plans reimburse gym membership as well as SilverSneakers and Silver & Fit fitness classes and online programs. Your municipal or county government may provide recreation centers where you can play sports or work out for a low daily cost.

© 2022 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Related: Triathlete Will Turner – Breaking records at 60 and beyond

Katherine Reynolds Lewis

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is a contributing writer at Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. She previously worked as a national correspondent for Newhouse and Bloomberg News, covering topics from financial and media policy to the White House. For more on this and similar money topics, visit