Successful aging, physical function and frequency of physical activity among former elite athletes versus the general population

 Rachel Heimer1, Eli Carmeli2

1 Gerontology Department, University of Haifa
2 Department of Physical Therapy, University of Haifa
Background and objective:
Moderate physical activity throughout life and especially in old age has been vastly proven beneficial to one’s well-being. This study focuses on former elite athletes, as opposed to the general population, in order to determine whether there are differences in physical function, the frequency which they perform physical activity and how successfully they view their aging.
Methods: Thirty former elite athletes over the age of 65 who participated in competitive swimming or track and field were sampled, alongside the control group which consisted of 30 participants who never took part in an elite sports program. The participants answered a telephone interview that consisted of general and demographic questions and questions about habits, physical activity, physical function and successful aging. Statistical tests were used to analyze the variables.
Results: Former elite athletes over the age of 75 aged more successfully than the control group. Furthermore, former athletes who trained over 12 weekly hours have aged more successfully than the control group. The former elite athletes, in contrast to the control group, feel considerably younger than their age and undertake frequent physical activity at a higher intensity. The participants, who are consistently active, present better physical function and an extra positive subjective outlook on their age.
Conclusions: Former elite athletes enjoy the benefits of feeling younger, enjoying more successful ageing over the age of 75 and exercising more frequently and in higher intensity in comparison to the general population, therefore reaping the benefits of remaining active as well.
Key Words: Elite sports, achievement sports, successful ageing, exercise, subjective perception
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