Should older people do sports

Seniors are more active than ever

Exercise is good for your health and improves the quality of life - especially in old age. More and more people are realizing this.

For a YouTube star, Johanna Quaas is quite out of line. She is neither young nor hip, doesn’t attract attention through garish comments or absurd hobbies. Johanna Quaas does something completely ordinary in her videos that have been clicked a million times: she just does gymnastics - at almost 95 years of age.

The woman from Halle in Saxony-Anhalt has achieved a certain fame with her passion for bars and floor mats. She is not only the oldest competitive gymnast in the world, she also exemplifies the growing group of older people who keep fit with sport and exercise. “The majority of today's generation knows that they have to do something,” says Ingo Froböse, professor at the German Sport University in Cologne. The older people are correspondingly more active and healthier.

Almost every fifth person over 60 trains in a club

Much data support this finding. The number of people over 60 who are still members of a sports club has been growing for years. There are now around 4.3 million - almost one in five in this age group. In 2001 it was only 13.9 percent. The average age in German fitness studios is also rising steadily - by six since 2001 to 41.5 years. More than one in ten visitors is already over the age of 60. Many clubs and fitness studios are adapting to the growing target group and offering special courses.

Seniors in particular are often active outside of organized sport: they hike, jog, swim regularly or do gymnastics. If you add all the activities, the older ones are just as active as the younger ones, sometimes even more active. According to a Forsa survey commissioned by the “7 years longer” initiative, three quarters of 70 to 74 year olds do sport. Among the 18 to 34 year olds, it is slightly less at 73 percent. It is only in those over 75 that the movement noticeably decreases. Nevertheless, two thirds of them are still physically active at least once a week.

Sport has many positive health effects

By doing this, they are doing themselves a great favor. Sport has many positive effects on health: Regular training not only prevents heart disease, it also lowers the risk of a stroke, promotes metabolism, strengthens muscles and bones and improves blood circulation. Sport is also good for the psyche: studies show that physical activity improves mood - especially important for older people, as they are more likely to suffer from depressive moods.

Sport not only improves health, it also increases the quality of life - especially in old age. Because those who train strength, flexibility and endurance remain agile and thus create the basis for being able to lead an independent and self-determined life for a long time. “Muscles keep us mobile. They let us climb stairs and carry bags, ”emphasizes Froböse. Those who no longer have the strength to do this are dependent on outside help and lose their freedom. And it is more difficult for him to maintain his social contacts. Because for that you usually have to leave the house.

Make maximum use of muscles even in old age

This is why exercise is so important into old age. Without regular exercise, muscles lose around 10 to 15 percent of their strength every decade, according to Froböse. Above all, the maximum strength decreases over time, which also has an impact on the training. "The older I get, the more I have to make sure that I sometimes move higher loads and do more intensive units during training," says Froböse. Everyday exertion can only be managed when the area of ​​maximum load can still be accessed. “Muscles shouldn't be wrapped in cotton wool, especially in old age,” emphasizes the sports scientist. Athletes - regardless of age - shouldn't overdo it.

If you want to check your strength, speed and endurance, you can do this regularly, for example, with a test for the German sports badge. The requirements for the awards - in gold, silver or bronze - vary depending on the age group. This makes the sports badge a good performance test, especially for seniors, many of whom also use the offer. Almost a fifth of the sports badges awarded in 2019 went to the over60 age group - around 31,500 people.

Johanna Quaas was also regularly one of the award winners. By the time she left the gymnastics stage in 2018, she had collected almost 20 sports badges.