National Senior Games encourage healthy lifestyle

The Summer Olympics may be wrapping up within the next few days, but a number of older adults are focused on next summer. That's because qualifications are underway for the 2013 National Senior Games, the biennial competition that pits some of the most athletic seniors against each other, USA Today reports.

The games are headed by Mike Sophia, who expects the event to draw the largest crowd in its history. Since it started in 1987, the games have grown year after year, and in 2011 the competition attracted 10,000 adults over 50. Sophia anticipates this year's being even larger, with some athletes having already landed their place in the games.

"People who are 100 have already qualified," Sophia told the publication. "These games are motivation for people to stay healthy."

Much like the Olympics, the National Senior Games offer a wide variety of sports. Athletes can compete in everything from archery to horseshoes to pickleball. However, Sophia says track and field is the overwhelming favorite among older adults.

While the National Senior Games offer older adults a chance to compete against one another, it also helps highlight the fact that staying active is an important part of healthy aging, whether in a competitive setting or not.

Although seniors are more active than in generations past, it is still a message that bears repeating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 38.5 percent of men between 65 and 74 get the recommended amount of exercise.

There are very significant health benefits associated with even very mild amounts of exercise, according to the American Heart Association. Specifically, walking as little as 30 minutes a day can improve heart health.