Why Everyone Over 50
Should be Training for the Senior Games

by Phil Campbell, M.S., M.A., ACSM, FACHE
Senior Games participant &
author of Ready, Set, GO! Synergy Fitness - 2nd Edition - 7th Printing


If you're over age 50 and like friendly competition, the Senior Olympic Games may be perfect for you.

Senior Games competition is an Olympic-style sports event designed to promote healthy lifestyles for adults over age 50, through fitness, sports, active lifestyle, and athletic competition.

Senior Games have age groups that are set in five year increments for men and women; ages 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, all the way up.


Senior Games in the US are sanctioned by the US Olympic Committee and events are coordinated by various state government agencies in cooperation with the National Senior Games Office (www.nsga.com).

Senior Games begin at the district level within the states. The top team, and the top three to four finishers in each event typically advance to the state level (sometimes called State Games). During the State Senior Games, the top FOUR finishers in each event (top three in cycling and tennis) finishers and also those reaching published qualifying marks per event, advance to the National Senior Games that are held in different parts of the US every two years.

The most recent National Senior Games was in Pittsburgh and the next one will be in 2008 at Stanford University. The Senior Games for 2011 are tentatively set for Houston, TX (June 19-July 5).

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

Senior Games events are growing. The first-ever Senior Olympic Hockey Championships were held in 2002 at Lake Placid, NY 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 training for and entering the local Senior Games in your area?

Why Everyone Over 50
Should be Training for the Senior Games

Competition is a great motivation (at any age). When it comes to training for competition or working out for health, competition is a much more powerful motivation. And I encourage adults of all ages to use competition as a powerful tool to exercise.

I'll bet that if you where to count the number of your workouts during the year after making the commitment to compete in the Senior Games versus workouts for health, that the competition motivation would have much higher numbers.

Also, there's new biomedical research that now proves why this higher intensity training is so positive.

Research discoveries show that we can unleash the most powerful body-fat cutting, muscle-toning, energy-producing substance known in science (naturally) with specific types of exercise. And the workouts necessary in training for many of the Senior Games events will 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. The study subjects (men average age 66) in the high-intensity exercise group produced a 31% risk reduction for heart disease. And this was 14% better than those who performed "less intense" exercise.

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

Christine Dewbre, Executive Director and Teresa Prinzo, Assistant Director
of the Tennessee Senior Games encourage Charlie Baker in the finals of the 400 Meters

Anti-Aging and Exercise

Researchers show that high-intensity anaerobic workouts that include the short-burst, get-you-out-of-breath, sprinting types of exercise, will 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 will reduce body fat and trim inches. Growth hormone actually becomes the 'fitness hormone' for middle-age, and older adults."

Anaerobic exercise (as contrasted with aerobic exercise) is sprint training, not endurance training. And new studies show that HGH can be increased by as much as 530% with 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 done in many different ways - running, swimming, cycling, XC skiing - and all of 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 primary target and this makes flexibility training an essential part of 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.

Intensity Relative to Age

The American Heart Association study also proves another important point concerning fitness training during aging - exercise intensity is relative to one's age and fitness level.

In other words, an older individual can reach high-intensity levels with an effort level that might be considered low-intensity for a young athlete.

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

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

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. This just means that it's easier for her to reach higher intensities.

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

Click to visit the Ready, Set, Go! Fitness Website

See Senior Games links below


Discover comprehensive fitness training
for Seniors Games

in this book by a Senior Games participant

featured in
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"Phil, Guess my training regimen of weight training, Sprint 8's, etc. paid off. Got six firsts and set five records in the swimming events for men 65-69 at the National Senior Games and I'm pushing the top of my age group at 68." - Bill Lauer, Knoxville

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Senior & Masters Sports

National Senior Games - State contact information
Millennium Senior Games - In 2005, you'll want to be in this Senior Games competition when you see this Web site. You may even want to move there when you see their slide show!

Senior Olympics -
contact information
State Games contact info
Tennessee Senior Games
- Lead by Christine Dewbre and Teresa Prinzo. Excellent Web site
Brian Mackenzie UK Track Coach - Informative Web site
California Senior Games

40 speed.com -
Speed training.
Austin, TX Senior Games
- Lead by John Berlet
Masters Track & Field -
Excellent Web site for masters athletes
Masters Track News - A must have subscription for masters track & field.
United States Masters Swimming
Masters Diving
- Top track & field newsletter offered on this Web site.
American Cross Country Skiers (AXCS)
USA Track & Field
Fitness by Gordon -
Senior exercise Web site - Maturity can be a banquet when fed by exercise!
World Masters weightlifting

More Senior & Master's links    

senior softball
Seniors Hockey
Huntsman World Senior Games
USATF National Masters XC & 5K Championships
Masters basketball
USA Cycling
Cycling Links
US Tennis Association
International Triathlon
International Volleyball
Masters Ski Jumping
Bama Cyclist
- Preparing for senior games in cycling

Warning for Seniors

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- As many as 500,000 otherwise healthy seniors are getting daily injections of synthetic human growth hormone each year. Some seniors swear the hormone reduces fat, makes them more active and increases libido, but some researchers say this practice, for which the users pay between $5,000 and $10,000 a year, can have serious and potentially deadly side effects, USA Today reported.

There's a better way than injections to get the benefits of increasing
growth hormone, high-intensity exercise! See article that follows.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of synthetic growth hormone for boys likely to become adults shorter than 5-foot-3 and girls likely to be shorter than 4-foot-11. When growth hormone is prescribed for adults, it's considered "on-label," and a doctor can prescribe the hormone if it will benefit the patient for a FDA-specified condition such as patients who have lost their pituitary gland because of a tumor or for patients suffering from AIDS. However, some seniors can get the synthetic grown hormone, "off-label," for no specific condition except that a doctor feels a patient will benefit.


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Retired Air Force pilot
World War II Veteran