Sports Competition for Adults Over 40: A Participants Guide to 27 Sports
Sports Competition for Adults Over 40: A Participants Guide to 27 Sports
Sports Competition for Adults Over 40: A Participants Guide to 27 Sports

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As an initial step in assessing the state of Masters Sports in the United States I have taken a macro view of the population and how it has changed over the past ten or fifteen years. Then I can drill down into some of the details.

During the ten years from 2000 to 2010 the population of the U.S. grew by about 9.7%, from about 281 million to 308 million. The sexes were pretty evenly divided in 2000: 50.9% women and 49.1% men. These percentages barely changed during the decade.

I am most interested in what I call the Masters Sports Cohort (the "Cohort") which I define as adults between the ages of 40 and 94. The Cohort represents about 42% of the population in 2000 and 46% of the population in 2010. Baby boomers are obviously driving this growth. So, while the overall population of the U.S. is increasing at a 9.7% rate, the growth of the Cohort is almost double this, 19.3%. In terms of gender, both men and women contribute equally to this growth.

To be consistent with most sports organizations, I am looking at the eleven 5-year age groups within the Cohort (i.e. 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, etc.).We would expect that younger age groups would be larger than older age group. Duh! People die and there are relatively few births in these groups. In 2000 there are 17.5 million people in the 50-54 age group and 1.1 million people in the 90-84 age group. Furthermore, we might also assume that over the decade the number of adults in each age group increases. For example, the 50-54 age group in 2010 is larger by 4.7 million people that the 50-54 age group in 2000. The age group with the fastest growth? Those in the 60-64 age group grew by 55% from 2000 to 2010.

But there are a couple of exceptions. Among the eleven 5-year age groups, nine groups hold to the pattern. Each has more people in 2010 than it did in 2000. Here are the two exceptions: The 40-44 age group has 1.5 million fewer in 2010 than in 2000 and the 75-79 age group has about 98 thousand fewer adults in 2010 than in 2000. Wny? It may be linked to the change in birth rates during the depression and a few years after World War II.

What does all this tell us about the state of Masters Sports? Simply that the number of men and women in the Cohort -- those old enough to qualify as Masters Athletes -- grew by almost 20%. Furthermore, this growth occurred for both men and women. Finally, many of the age groups within the Cohort grew even faster than 20%.

Next, I wanted to look at the health of the Cohort and the amount of physical activity they engage in.

By many measures the Cohort is healthier than it ever has been. Since 1930, life expectancy in the U.S. has risen steadily from 59.7 years to 78.7 years. But there are some indications that this group of adults is not as healthy as it might be. Perhaps most worrying is the prevalence of overweight and obese adults over the past ten years. The health effects of obesity and added poundage are serious and well-known, including Type II diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. In 2012 more than 38% of adults over 40 were obese. Women over 40 were even more likely to be obese than men(39% vs.36%). Adults over 60 were more likely to be obese than those younger 40% vs.36%). Severe obesity (>100 lbs. overweight) is increasing particularly rapidly.

While Americans are getting fatter, they are becoming less active. These two are obviously related. The 2000 Federal Guidelines for Aerobic Activity seem modest enough. Just some moderately intense activity, such as brisk walking, for 150 minutes per week or just over 21 minutes per day. Fewer that 20% of adults over 40 meet this standard. Not surprisingly, the groups that fall farthest behind in meeting the standard are women and those over 65. Only 10% of those over 65 meet the standard.

Both of these trends -- increasing obesity and diminishing physical activity levels -- appear to be continuing unabated, although there is some evidence that there is a slight increase in the amount of physical activity for those over 40.

This is background for what I hope will be a more detailed look at Masters Sports.


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