Psychological and social benefits of being a masters athlete


The benefits of physical activity for older adults are well known. These include improved cardiovascular function, a decrease in cardiovascular disease and risk factors, increased skeletal muscle mass and size, improved balance, postural stability and flexibility, and psychological health. These benefits contribute to prolonging the age of mortality (Salem et al., 2009; Vogel et al., 2009). Some limited evidence suggests that participation by older adults in competitive sport may have additional benefits to those obtained from being physically active. These include more prosocial behaviour, passion and involvement, meaning to life, and successful aging (e.g., Geard, Reaburn, Rebar, & Dionigi, 2017). To investigate these additional benefits, forty-five Masters athletes were interviewed (age 50 to 85). Athletes were asked about their history and nature of involvement in sport, and particular perceived benefits from their participation as a Masters athlete. Based on the interviews, both psychological (i.e., improved self-confidence and sense of achievement) and social factors (i.e., larger friend groups and being closer with family) were important benefits that athletes believe they obtain over and above the physical benefits of participation in sport. These findings suggest that promotion of participating in competitive sport to older adults should emphasize these benefits.

Acknowledgments: SSIRG - Sport and Social Impact Research Group at Western University