Hey Sporty! Whatcha Playin’?

. March 31, 2018.
kayak

Sporting a Senior Lifestyle,
Maintaining Activity Throughout Our Life

Do sports seem to be a distant memory? The days of competition, topping a personal best, even organizing leagues and tournaments have passed us by. Right? Wrong. We are not, as active adults, downgraded to walking mindlessly on indoor tracks or, if the weather permits, strolling through a Metropark. We have choices. Exciting, athletic and meaningful choices. Senior sports and fitness provides real options.

Oldies but goodies

Senior fitness abounds in today’s scene. One of the most interesting programs is Medicare’s Silver Sneaker program. Many local gyms, YMCA’s, and senior centers offer free or significantly discounted classes and memberships through this program. Looking for availability and access at silversneakers.com.

Two sporting activities rank high with older adults and their physicians: golf and bowling. Golf in particular has grown into a lifelong hobby for many avid fans. However, if you never golfed it is not too late to start. After all, golf is one of the few sports that actually has a defined “senior” tour (imagine a senior NFL league). Almost every golf course in our area offers a wide variety of discounts and leagues. Thanks to the handicap scoring system (including different tee boxes), golfing is an activity that is easily enjoyed cross-generationally.

Bowling has the same advantages of golf but with year-round opportunities. Most alleys offer senior leagues and discounts. Bowling also uses the handicap system, helping equalize players skill levels and ages during league or competitive play. Finally, bowling technology has come a long way. Gone are the days of ill-fitting balls and shoes that hurt hands, feet and backs. If you are new to the sport (or left it behind decades ago), equipment has evolved.

New and improved

Besides the tried and true favorites, emerging sports/activities are now part of the senior sports lexicon. Hottest among these sports is pickleball, originally developed in 1965 by a Washington State congressman. Pickleball combines elements of tennis and badminton with a little ping pong thrown in. It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes and, like tennis, is played in singles or doubles varieties. The court size is significantly reduced from tennis. Scoring as well will be, at first, unfamiliar. None of that deters the sports growth. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) 2016 Annual Participation Report, over 2.5 million people are now regularly playing pickleball.

Why not just play tennis? Pickleball has some marked advantages. Like tennis, it remains fast paced, dynamic, fun and social. The smaller court is easier to navigate. Likewise, the ball and paddle design lead to lower impact on both shoulders and legs. Finally, the sport is relatively new and so there are no “glory days” of pickleball. Unlike golf and bowling, this becomes a great equalizer.

Pickleball players.

Pickleball players.

There are now pickleball associations in Toledo, Sylvania, and Holland. To find groups and courts visit toledopickleball.com. Of course, there is a national organization as well: the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). More information along with tips and equipment at usapa.org.

On the water

Finally, there is an activity that, although not strictly a sport, is often overlooked for seniors: Kayaking and/or Canoeing. Another lower impact activity that combines the adventure and outdoor grandiosity of hiking but is less stressful on the lower limbs. Thanks to the addition of the new Howard Marsh Metropark this activity is more accessible for everyone, including seniors. Opening this spring, the Metropark, on State Route 2 and Howard Road, will sport 6 miles of water trails for canoeing and kayaking along with over 5 miles of land trails.

You can find details, including programs and senior activities at metroparkstoledo.com.

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