AUS: 1300 630 488    NZ: 0800 1477 6287

Benefits of Sport in Retirement

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, now more than ever it is important to maintain good health by staying fit and active. 

People have always looked for the elixir of youth, the thing that will deliver a longer, healthier, happier life. Health experts and psychologists have known one all along: exercise and, specifically, sport that gets you out of the house and moving.

Research consistently shows that for over-55s and retirees, involvement in sport has significant physical and mental benefits.

With more and more sports and local organisations catering to over-55s, all that’s needed to reap those benefits is commitment and willingness to give it a try.

“It just takes that first step to make the decision you’re going to do it or try it out,” says Rob Bradley, President of the Confederation of Australian Sport.

Over-55s have a wide range of fitness. “Some people are as fit and sprightly as ever,” Bradley says. “Others’ health may be on the wane.”

But there is no doubt that sport and activity has benefits no matter what life stage or level of health you are at. 

Health and happiness

Anita Hobson-Powell, Executive Officer of Exercise and Sports Science Australia, points to research that shows that high levels of fitness cut mortality risk.

“They are living longer,” she says of people who do physical activity and have higher levels of fitness. “You could have an 80-year-old who is quite fit and active. Their mortality risk is lower than a 60-year-old not doing anything.”

Exercising can boost bone mass, protecting against osteoporosis, and increase muscle strength, balance and walking speed, which cuts the risk of potentially serious falls.

There is also significant research that sport helps make you happier. “The key things we’re seeing, particularly for older people, are the benefits of socialisation,” Bradley says.

“They may spend quite a lot of time at home by themselves; it’s a chance to get out and socialise, which has very positive mental health benefits."

Find your fit

A multitude of sports cater to retirees. Bradley says that suitable sports for the over-55s are low impact sports. “Low-impact, whole-body, cardiovascular-fitness promoting activities are very positive,” Bradley says. “As are group activities."

Forward-thinking sports and facilities are now employing older instructors. The benefits are two-fold; they increase the confidence of older people who see that age is simply not a barrier – or an excuse.

“A great number of people in the older age group are very skilled instructors across a range of vocations,” Bradley explains. “They’re starting to be engaged more and more.”


Bradley says a good place to start is sports you played when younger. You could find a club in your area and see if they have a program or even start an activity with your Probus Club. 

Hobson-Powell says that it’s important to be realistic and work out what you think you can do. If you have a history of medical problems, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure or arthritis, or current medical problems, it’s wise to see an exercise physiologist who can ensure you’re not going to put your health at risk and can make sure you do the appropriate exercise. 

At the end of the day it’s about making a commitment to sport so you can reap the benefits. The first step is getting out there and having a bit of a go.

“Go along and try it out,” says Bradley.