Age, Sport, and Physical Activity

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Western nations around the world are ageing. In the US, 15 percent of the population was age 65 or older in 2014. By 2060, experts predict this proportion will increase to 24 percent. Worldwide, about 8 percent of the population is age 65 or older. According to the Pew Research Center, by 2050, this figure should reach 15 percent.

The ageing population raises questions about the workforce capacity, retirement, savings, and health. Focusing on health, many officials turn to sport and physical activity as a way of promoting physical well-being across a lifetime.

Interestingly, scientists have paid less attention to sport and the psychological benefits and costs. Recognizing this gap, Amy Gayman, of York University, and her colleagues recently conducted a study to examine these relationships.

They conducted a systematic literature review, which, for them, involved culling through over 2,300 articles on the topic.

Gayman and colleagues found support for the link between sport participation and positive psychological outcomes among older adults. In fact, 70 percent of the research conducted in the area has pointed to these patterns. The positive outcomes are varied, including those in the cognitive, emotional, social, and motivational domains.

Though there are a host of positives, the researchers did identity some negative outcomes, too. For some, sport participation can be a source of frustration and fear. Others were discouraged, especially when they received negative feedback.

Taken as a whole, the research suggests that sport can have mixed effects, but overall the impact on older populations is a positive one. The authors suggested, therefore, that sport can benefit people across their lifespan.