At what age do people play sports

Sport in old age - that's the advice of experts

A long life in good health - who doesn't want that? Numerous studies show that those who exercise regularly age healthier. Even those who have not been athletic all their life can still start at 60 and achieve success quickly, says Prof. Ingo Froböse. He heads the Center for Health at the German Sport University Cologne.

Improve fitness in old age with moderate exercise

Studies show that even previously untrained people can double their muscle strength in just over a year through sport and exercise - even at 60. A comparison with younger people shows how this pays off: trained 60-year-olds have the same fitness level as 30-year-olds, who do not do sports.

Exercising in old age keeps you healthy and fit - this is known to most people. But contrary to popular belief, this applies not only to young people and adults, but also to seniors, even at an advanced age. Even people aged 70 or 80 can significantly improve their strength and endurance through moderate training.

The best training is a combination of several disciplines: firstly, endurance training that is easy on the joints, such as cycling or Nordic walking, and secondly, an approximately ten-minute exercise program on three to five days a week. In addition, it helps to consistently integrate exercise into everyday life - with walks and climbing stairs, for example.

Sport in old age should be fun

Many seniors initially shy away from exercising at an advanced age for fear of injury or overwork. In addition, there are often physical restrictions that may no longer allow the practice of some sports.

Statistics show that with increasing age, most people become less and less physically active: while 35% of all women and 44% of all men do more than 2.5 hours of intense, sweaty exercise every week, men over 65 are only 18 %, and 13% of women are still physically active at all.
Nevertheless, the following principle applies: You are never too old for sport - it just depends on finding the right sport and the appropriate level of training for yourself. The main focus should be on having fun in the movement and less on the idea of ​​performance.

Because regular physical exercise has clear health benefits for most people. Even regular brisk walks strengthen muscles, bones, heart and blood vessels, flexibility and endurance.

Adapt training and sport to your age

The training must of course be adapted to the current physical condition. In addition to the age of the respective person, this also includes current illnesses, health of the heart, blood vessels and muscles, injuries or the effects of previous illnesses. For some people, an extra round in the hallway in the nursing home may be sufficient; Frail people are already challenged to get up from the chair several times and to sit down again.

Other older people may be so healthy and fit that they can jog small laps or take aerobics classes. Basically: Older people, including frail people in care facilities who have never done sport before, can start with movement exercises or physical training with guidance and support. Unfortunately, this happens too seldom in reality.

What are the advantages of regular exercise in old age?

Sports in old age have numerous advantages for seniors:

  • Physical inactivity is v. a. in old age one of the main risk factors for an increased risk of various diseases and increased mortality.
  • Physical activity increases life expectancy, counteracts obesity, lowers blood pressure and the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and injuries (from falls or accidents).
  • Regular exercise promotes mental and physical health, improves functionality, balance, body control, counteracts the development of impaired sugar metabolism or diabetes mellitus and significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and the death rate (up to 50%).
  • In addition, exercise is beneficial in preventing osteoporosis and some joint diseases in old age.
  • Exercise reduces the natural breakdown of muscle mass and the gradual loss of muscle stamina, it reduces the loss of physical fitness, it improves balance and body control, which in turn reduces the risk of falls.
  • It reduces the risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Sleep gets better.
  • Prevents depression, improves general functioning and promotes self-confidence.
  • A trained heart does more for seniors


Jogging, swimming and cycling are ideal sports to train your heart in old age.

Those who do endurance sports regularly have a bigger and stronger heart than non-athletes. Instead of around 20 liters, the heart of an endurance athlete can pump up to 35 liters per minute through the body. The oxygen supply is also better for those who have been trained.

According to the Professional Association of German Internists (BDI), people over the age of 50 are most productive in endurance sports. These include jogging, swimming, cycling, walking and hiking. The German Heart Foundation recommends exercising more intensely and persistently for at least half an hour four to five times a week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends being active for around 150 minutes a week. This also includes exercise in everyday life such as walks, gardening and climbing stairs.

Three sports seniors do to keep their hearts fit:

To jog: Jogging is also suitable for the elderly. As a rule of thumb, you should work up a sweat, but still be able to talk. Walking is gentler than jogging because the joints are not constantly exposed to vibrations. Walking also strengthens the arm muscles. If you are brisk, you train up to 90 percent of your muscles while walking.

Swim: If you have joint problems, swimming is a good choice. There is less weight on the joints in the water. If you like water and like to go jogging, you can try aqua jogging. The risk of injury while swimming is also low. Caution: Patients with coronary artery disease should slowly get used to the water when the water temperature is below 27 ° C. The cold stimulus can cause severe vasoconstriction.

To go biking: Cycling is also easy on the joints. If you lose strength on inclines, an e-bike is a practical support. Those who like to ride a bike, but prefer to stay at home in bad weather, can strengthen their heart with an exercise bike (bicycle ergometer). What can also motivate: You can watch TV or listen to music during training. In addition, road traffic and the risk of falling are eliminated.

This is what experts recommend for sport in old age:

  • Every week a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of intense sport or a combination of moderately strenuous and intensive training
  • Adults and the elderly in particular should also do strength training and balance exercises 2 to 3 times a week.

Sports in old age - what needs to be considered?

In principle, seniors can practice almost all sports and also practice their favorite sport from before. Because movement patterns that were learned at a young age can often still be called up in old age. Anyone who has regularly done their laps in the park from childhood can still do so now.

However, there are also some sports that, if exercised incorrectly, can put a lot of strain on the body and joints and often result in injuries. Jogging or ball sports with abrupt stopping movements and short but strong stress phases (e.g. football or handball) are therefore less suitable for untrained seniors. Sports that are gentle on the joints and gently strengthen stamina, coordination and strength are then better. It is also important that they are easy to learn and that getting back to work is uncomplicated.

Before starting training, see a doctor

If you suffer from illness, injuries or other ailments, it may be advisable to consult your family doctor first to find out if anything special needs to be considered before starting the training. Particular caution is required with some heart diseases.

Newcomers to sports should slowly approach this training volume so as not to overwhelm their heart and joints. The most important measure for seniors who want to start exercising is to see a doctor. Check-up 35, for example, is covered every two years from the age of 35 by the health insurances.

In addition to the general state of health, the performance of the heart is determined with the help of an exercise ECG. Then the training intensity, the training frequency and the appropriate sport for the start of the sport can be discussed.

Important points and basics for sport in old age:

  • No matter which sport you choose and which your doctor recommends, it is important that you take it slow. Your body should be challenged to a certain extent, but never overwhelmed!
  • If you listen to your body, if the sport is too strenuous and the stress is too high for you, stop the training. Keep your motivation and don't force yourself to do anything.
  • Only do sport voluntarily and if you also enjoy exercising.
  • Practice different sports to train different muscle groups. So the whole body is strengthened.

Sport in old age with endurance, strength and flexibility

The combination of endurance, strength and flexibility make the ideal sport for seniors. This covers many areas of health. The versatile training enables you to achieve quick results such as a higher load limit and achieve the strongest training effects. You will also benefit from this in everyday life: you will notice that you have more energy and that it is easier for you to do a lot of things that previously gave you trouble.

Endurance training for seniors

Endurance training helps you to be able to cope with exertion and let fatigue set in later. It also strengthens your musculoskeletal system, which means preventing falls for seniors.

Since it takes longer to increase endurance as you get older, continuous training is worth a lot. For a result, you should do moderate endurance exercise three to five times a week. With motivation you will succeed in regular training units. Make appointments with like-minded people for long walks or "running meetings", that is much more fun than alone.

The perfect strength training for seniors


Weight training twice a week will help stop the decline in muscle mass.

Health strength training does not aim to build muscle specifically for aesthetic reasons. Instead, with increasing age, the health-promoting and preventive aspects of strength training come to the fore. Older people can make a significant contribution to their health by exercising their muscles regularly. The heart, lungs and circulatory system work better, increased blood pressure drops and blood lipid levels are also positively influenced. Inflammatory processes can often also be curbed through sporting activity and the risk of osteoporosis can be reduced through a dosed load on the bones.

Targeted strength training for seniors keeps the body going and slows down the breakdown of important muscle mass in old age. Fitness training has a positive effect on life expectancy even in old age.

It is enough to train the most important muscle groups with your own body weight or small dumbbells twice a week for around 15-20 minutes. These are in particular the arms and shoulders, the stomach, back and thighs. If you want to train your legs, you can also stand next to or behind a chair, hold on to the backrest and do some effective exercises there.

The best sports for seniors

Get out into nature: Nordic walking is very popular with seniors in particular.

Classic among the sports for seniors are walking and Nordic walking. Simply put, when you walk quickly in the fresh air, your whole body gets going, endurance improves and the performance of the cardiovascular system is promoted. The vibration-free walking is also gentle on the joints and is therefore also suitable for people with osteoarthritis.

Swimming is also right at the forefront when it comes to joint protection, because the water is buoyant and there is less weight on the joints. Swimmers don't feel “weightless” for nothing. Other plus points: swimming has a very low risk of injury, improves endurance and strengthens the cardiovascular system.

Many clubs and fitness studios now offer gymnastics courses especially for older participants. With these offers, muscle strength, coordination and endurance are trained equally. The trainers are very familiar with the needs of their course participants and offer exercises for every level of ability. In many fitness studios, the teams have specially prepared themselves for seniors and explain in detail how the equipment and systems are used in a way that is gentle on the body.

If you want to find your active happiness outside of fixed sports groups, you can also benefit from increased exercise in everyday life or from training at home. Sport within your own four walls has the advantage that seniors are more independent of time and weather. There are suggestions for this in numerous guides and information brochures. The doctor or pharmacist will be happy to help.

Where can seniors do sports?

As you can see, there is a wide range of options - for both sports enthusiasts and beginners. Now all that remains is to find the right facility for regular exercise. Is there a gym near you? It is best to choose one with a physiotherapy approach. Here you can create a training plan for strength and endurance training and for your individual needs.

Does the indoor pool in your area offer courses in swimming technique or water fitness? Ask and let us explain the process to you. Is there an adult education center in your hometown? Ask about the current semester schedule and browse for suitable offers.

Research nearby sports clubs. They offer several sports for a monthly fee so that you can test different ones. Usually groups of sports enthusiasts meet in the fresh air through the clubs and pursue their hobby together. Perhaps you also have friends or acquaintances with whom you can meet for joint training?

If you would like to do sport independently of courses and clubs, consult a general practitioner or a sports doctor beforehand. Let yourself be shown movement sequences and exercises that you can do at home. Find a place to do your exercises. Go out into nature and use a bench for stretching exercises or a suitable route for endurance sports.

A straight, quiet path or a slight incline are ideal. If you run on asphalt, you can equip yourself with the appropriate shoes that cushion your weight very well.

Sports for seniors also at home. With these devices it is possible:

  • Small hand weights
  • An elastic band
  • An exercise ball
  • Light weight cuffs
  • A good sleeping mat or sports mat
  • Balance cushion

How do I train properly in old age?

Sports beginners are advised not to train briefly and intensively, but longer and with a moderate heart rate. Experienced and trained athletes who, on the other hand, want to improve their performance should occasionally increase their pulse rate during intensive training units (see maximum pulse rate above).

In general, 80 percent of the training should take place in the so-called “aerobic area”. In this form of energy production, oxygen is consumed when carbohydrates and fats are burned. The aerobic energy metabolism takes place with low or moderate training loads. Which heart rate this corresponds to differs from person to person.

Here, too, a relatively simple rule can help to locate the aerobic area: If you need four steps to inhale once and four more steps to exhale while running, you are moving roughly at the aerobic threshold. If you take fewer steps per breath, you are most likely already in the anaerobic area (source:

What is the training heart rate?

180 minus age = the optimal training heart rate for sport in old age

In order to train as best as possible and to increase your performance in the long term, it is important to know your optimal training pulse.This varies depending on age, gender and level of training. Since you should not overstrain your heart, you should make sure that you do not exceed your maximum heart rate. The maximum heart rate reflects the highest possible heart rate that occurs at maximum load. On average, it is around 220 beats per minute minus the respective age.

For a 30-year-old, the maximum heart rate would be 190. The resting heart rate, on the other hand, is an average of 60 to 80 beats per minute in healthy adults. The better someone is trained, the lower their resting heart rate. In well-trained endurance athletes, the resting heart rate can even drop to 40 beats per minute.

The reason for this: Through regular exercise, the heart gains size and can thus pump blood through the body with fewer heartbeats.

180 minus age = the optimal training heart rate

The optimal training heart rate is between the resting heart rate and the maximum heart rate. If you play sports and strain your heart, it beats more often because it has to carry more oxygen through the body. The training pulse depends on age, training status and resting pulse and should be measured immediately after training, as the pulse drops again immediately after the interruption and the result is thus falsified. But where is this optimal training pulse? A well-known rule of thumb says “180 strokes minus your own age”. For a 30-year-old, this would be a heart rate of 150. However, this rule applies more to untrained people, as this ensures that the person in this heart rate range is not physically overwhelmed or overworked.

How do you measure the pulse?

There are different ways to measure the pulse. On the one hand, this can be done with a heart rate monitor or manually with the aid of your fingers and, on the other hand, you can measure the pulse at different points. In addition to the pulse of the carotid artery (common carotid artery), the wrist pulse (radial artery) is best, as it is easy to feel.

The following is based on the wrist pulse: First, have a watch with a second hand ready, and then place your index, middle and ring fingers on the inside of the forearm directly below the wrist (the “extension” of the thumb, so to speak). Palpate the spoke and use your fingertips to apply gentle pressure to the artery. Count the heartbeats for 15 seconds or 30 seconds and multiply the value by four or by two, so that you finally get the number of heartbeats per minute. You should not measure the pulse with your thumb, as your own pulse can lead to incorrect results. If you have a very irregular pulse, it is recommended from the outset to count the pulse beats for 60 seconds. If the pulse is constantly irregular, you should consult a doctor. Please note, however, that the result is only a guide and your own pulse may deviate from the guide value.

Conclusion on sport in old age

Sport can be done at any age. With gentle sports and the right professional guidance, exercise can effectively support the health of seniors. The training of endurance, strength and flexibility promotes muscle building, the cardiovascular system and the entire musculoskeletal system.

Choose a sport that you enjoy and that does not overwhelm you. In this way you keep your motivation for regular exercise, which is the basis for the success of your training. Find like-minded people and push each other on. Choose a healthier lifestyle now and start exercising for seniors because it's never too late for that!