Don't Drop The Ball

By Kristen Castillo

December 12, 2016 5 min read

When you're a kid, you're active in so many ways -- from skating to soccer to baseball. But the good times don't have to stop just because you're getting older.

Max Page, founder of a weightlifting app called Lifter, plays softball and pickleball regularly, as well as flag football. His dodgeball team won the league. He's not letting age get in the way of fitness or fun.

Being active in sports is healthy for the body, mind and spirit.

"It reminds people of the joy of their childhood, and it's relatively safe on the older joints," says board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger, who recommends adults consider kickball, cycling and roller-skating. "The joy remains the same whether it be the competition of kickball, the wind through your ears when skating or the exploring of cycling."

*Feeling Sporty

Adults can play sports "with great skill into the autumn of their athletic lives," says Tim Forbes, author of "It's Game Time Somewhere."

As part of a blog-to-book project, Forbes attended 100 sporting events involving 50 completely different sports, all in the course of one year. He concluded that the "happiest sports fans in the country aren't those that are in the stands, but rather those that are on the various fields of play."

Forbes found players loved their sports of choice, without fame or fortune, just for "the experience of testing their skills, having fun and joining a community of kindred sports spirits."

He says most sports are OK for adults, with three exceptions: football, boxing and rugby.

Still, in most other sports, "while the level of performance and endurance tends to tail off, there are 50- and 60-somethings competing at everything from 'A,' archery, to 'Y,' yachting," he says.

*Staying Safe

For kids and adults, sporting safety is a priority.

Metzger advises wearing protective gear no matter which sport you choose. That means skaters wear elbow pads and kneepads, while basketball and tennis players might wear knee braces, if needed. Helmets are a must for cycling.

*Staying Strong

Adult athletes need to stay strong and flexible.

"With a dedicated program of stretching and a reasonable level of cardio exercise, there really is no limit to what 'grown-ups' can play and play well," says Forbes.

He suggests adult athletes do a full warmup before "playing pretty much anything."

"Muscles need a longer wake-up call when you get older," Forbes says, "but they're still there and will show up to perform when asked nicely."

Strength training is important, too.

"My biggest piece of advice is that you should be lifting weights on the days you are not playing," says Page. "The older you are, the more benefit you get from lifting.

"This especially helps with bone density. The people who lift on the teams I play on usually have no problem playing harder than the people who I know don't go to the gym."

Playing sports can also help your brain. Forbes says reaction sports such as table tennis and badminton "have been proven to enhance brain functioning in older athletes."

*Focus on Fun

Adult athletes participate in sports for a variety of reasons, from fitness to friendship to stress release.

If you loved jumping rope as a kid, consider joining a double Dutch team through the National Double Dutch League.

Experts say: Just get moving. Join a volleyball team, play softball with your officemates or hit the pool for a game of water polo.

"Enjoy every minute of it," says Dr. Metzger, who advises including family and friends in the sports. "Spread the joy around."

While she cautions adult athletes to be kind to their older bodies, which take longer to heal, she urges them to make the most of the experience.

"Don't ever be ashamed to enjoy a 'kiddie' sport," she says. "It's exercise and makes you happy. That's all that matters."

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