The relationship between sport and physical activity in later life

Greg McCracken, Policy Officer at Age Scotland recently attended ‘Learning from the Masters: The relationship between sport and physical activity in later life’ – a seminar hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University. Here he shares with us what we can learn from the research.


The benefits of sports in later life were made clear at a seminar hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) on Monday 13 April, where ‘Master’ athletes discussed the motivations and impacts of physical activity and some of the potential benefits for the wider population.

Funded by the Economic & Social Research Council and comprising academics from GCU, Brunel University and the Universities of Exeter and Loughborough, amongst others, the research group is examining the competing factors people must overcome to remain physically active as they grow older.

Masters sports are events that enable mature athletes to both practice their chosen discipline and participate in competitive games. Some prominent sports within the ‘masters’ category includes athletics, swimming and rugby.

Presentations considered participants’ motivations for competing, which ranged from a simple desire for victory, social benefits, and an understanding of the role which competitive sports can play throughout life, in terms of improving personal fitness levels.

Of course, it’s equally important that we don’t make physical activity for a mass audience exclusive; something that is only accessible if it’s in a formalised environment or which requires specialist equipment.  The benefits of physical activity are well known, as are the relative dangers of sedentary behaviours.

This, then, is the value of GCU’s research – if we can better understand what incentivises people to get active and stay active, we can develop and support programmes and facilities that genuinely meet people’s interests.

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Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of choice and ensuring that policy makers provide the widest variety of options to encourage and enable individuals to find the physical activity which works for them.  That means developing resources and infrastructure from a built environments that promotes active travel (walking and cycling), the availability of local gyms or swimming pools, right up to large scale tournaments and sporting events.

It’s with this in mind that Age Scotland is supporting the first Scottish Walking Football Festival on 7 June at Spartans Football Club in Edinburgh.

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The sport allows people to participate – at a walking pace – in a game in which many would previously have ruled themselves out.

So, if you’re interested in getting active again, have a look at some of the information available on our website here.

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