Senior Games

Fitness Expert

If you're over age 50 and not planning to enter the Transplant Games, Paralympics, or Special Olympics--and if you're not as strong or fast as you once were--we have an Olympics for you: the Senior Olympic Games.

We have the Olympic Games for people at the peak of their athletic ability who qualify as the very best in their sport. We have the Special Olympics for individuals with mental handicaps (, the Paralympic Games for athletes with physical challenges (, and the Transplant Olympics for those who have received a life-supporting organ (

Now we also have the Senior Olympic Games for folks over 50 who do not qualify for any of the other Olympic designations.

Senior Games competition is an Olympic-style sports event that promotes healthy lifestyles for seniors through fitness, sports, active lifestyle, and athletic competition.

The competition is fair. To keep an 80-year-old from unfairly using her wisdom and experience to take advantage of a younger, wet-behind-the–ears, 50-year-old (like me), Senior Games are set in age groups with five-year increments for men and women: ages 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, all the way up.

The U.S. Olympic Committee sanctions the Senior Games in the U.S., and various state government agencies, in cooperation with the National Senior Games Office (, coordinate the events.

Senior Games begin at the district level within the states. The top four finishers in each age group and event advance to the State Games. During the State Senior Games, the top finishers advance to the National Senior Games held in different parts of the U.S. every two years.

The next National Senior Games will be in Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 29 through June 6, 2003. The 2005 National Senior Games will be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Many sports are offered in the Senior Games: basketball, track & field, racquetball, road racing, softball, swimming, bowling, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, archery, badminton, cycling, golf, horseshoes, table tennis, and the Winter Senior Games currently offer seven events.

Senior Games events are growing. The first-ever Senior Olympic Hockey Championships were held in 2002 at Lake Placid, New York. The Winter National Senior Games are held in even-numbered years, and the summer events are held in odd-numbered years.

Here's the important part: Why you should seriously consider entering the local Senor Games in your area?

Why everyone over 50 should be training for the Senior Games.

New biomedical research proves why exercise and activity are so important.

Research discoveries in 2002 show that we can unleash the most powerful body-fat-cutting, muscle-toning, anti-aging substance known to science, naturally, with specific types of exercise. The workouts necessary in training for many of the Senior Games events do the job.

The American Heart Association recently cited research showing that high-intensity exercise can significantly lower the risk of heart disease. Simply, as exercise intensity goes up, the risk of heart disease goes down.

The researchers compared the impact of different levels of exercise intensity on men with an average age of 66. The subjects in the high-intensity exercise group produced a 31 percent risk reduction for heart disease, which was 14 percent better than those who performed less intense exercise.

"The harder one exercises ... the lower the risk of heart disease," says lead researcher Dr. I-Min Lee, associate professor Harvard Medical School.

Anti-aging exercise

Anaerobic exercise (as contrasted with aerobic exercise) involves short, high-intensity sprint training, rather than endurance training.

Researchers show that high-intensity anaerobic workouts that include the short-burst get-you-out-of-breath sprinting types of exercise make your body release significant amounts of growth hormone (Impact of acute exercise intensity on pulsatile growth hormone release in men, 2000, Pritzlaff).

As children, growth hormone (HGH) makes us grow taller, but when we reach our full height, this hormone actually changes roles. When we're adults, increasing HGH reduces body fat and trims inches. Growth hormone actually becomes the "fitness hormone" for middle-aged and older adults.

New studies show that HGH can be increased by as much as 530 percent with the anaerobic exercise of sprinting, (The time course of the human growth hormone response to a 6s and a 30s cycle ergometer sprint, 2002, Stokes).

Anaerobic sprint workouts can be involve many sports, including running, swimming, cycling, cross-country skiing, and all these are Senior Games events.

Whatever you do, don't do this!

Don't jump in; ease in to anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic fitness training is clearly the most productive, but it's also the most dangerous. Hamstring pulls are a painful potential injury, so flexibility training is essential to every fitness plan.

Everyone, especially those with heart conditions or medical problems, should get physician clearance before performing anaerobic exercise. Even young athletes should progressively ease into high-intensity anaerobic workouts.

Older adults get results with less effort

When you see an 80-year-old participant running a 10-K or working out in the gym, don't think that it's unfortunate that she can't run as fast or lift as much as her 60-year-old counterparts. It's easier for her to reach higher intensities.

The American Heart Association study proves that exercise intensity is relative to a person's age and fitness level. In other words, an older person can reach high-intensity levels with an effort level that might be considered low-intensity for a young athlete.

The new study confirms the need for higher intensities, but it also shows that beginners and older adults reach the more productive levels of exercise intensity with less effort than a triathlete, for example.

Newcomers to high-intensity exercise may initially get great results by performing the anaerobic training with power walking, but a fine-tuned triathlete may need more work for the same results.

If you're older than 50, get physician clearance first, select a Senior Games event or two and get started with a gradual buildup training program.