National Senior Games Promoting Health, Fitness and Fun

North Carolina Pickleball

2019 Senior Games – A Fitness Promoter

This year, 13,712 amateur athletes age 50 and older from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico will compete in 20 sports ranging from track and field to badminton, pickleball, table tennis and horseshoes. The number of participants is up 30 percent from two years ago, when the biennial event — the world’s largest Olympic-style multi-sport competition for people 50 and up — took place in Birmingham, Ala.

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Stanley Moulton, 85, will be representing New Hampshire this week in the 16th National Senior Games in Albuquerque, N.M. A lifelong runner, Moulton has qualified to compete in two road races, three track events and two power walks.

A main reason for the surge of interest is not what you’d expect, said Del Moon, media and communications director for the National Senior Games: More than to other venues, athletes around the country are eager to head to Albuquerque, a vacation-like destination that has gone all out to attract pickleball visitors.

Pickleball

Another big draw is pickleball — a sport spawned in 1965 from tennis, badminton and ping pong — which pulls participants of all ages, including from senior centers. “More people make new friends just by coming to play pickleball,” said Jim Edinger, a coach and former New Hampshire Senior Games director, who has watched its popularity grow.

‘If you rest, you rust’

Athletic competition for middle-aged and older adults has gained steam since the late 1960s. That’s when “Aerobics,” a book by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an Air Force physician, introduced adults interested in health and longevity to a range of heart-pumping options, and the lasting benefits of exercise — including preserving brain function.

“Before then, in the 1950s and early 1960s, when you were out running, they probably thought you escaped some mental institution,” Moulton said. “Older people didn’t run very often.”

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