Written by Loren Grush
Jack Faust, a 101-year-old Navy veteran of World War II, is making headlines by competing in the 26th National Veterans Golden Age Games, a sports and recreation competition for former soldiers over the age of 55. Faust, who has won numerous gold and silver medals in previous competitions, plans to tackle such events as bowling, shuffleboard, air rifle and checkers – all of which he’ll undertake in a wheelchair.
While Faust’s story may seem farfetched for some, an expert says it highlights the importance of the geriatric population to stay physically active. Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, the director of geriatric education at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, NY, maintains that competing in fitness activities and continuing exercise routines is one of the best things an elderly individual can do for his or her health.
“What exercise does is help people continue to build and maintain muscle mass,” Wolf-Klein told FoxNews.com. “Muscles, like any other organ, can atrophy if not used. For example, we know about the adverse effects of people sitting in front of the television for long periods of time. There’s very good evidence that at any age if you embark on a good exercise program, you can maintain and rebuild muscle mass.
Wolf-Klein says that just because you get older, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue playing the same sports or doing the same exercises that you did when you were younger.
“We have a growing number of elderly who are just continuing the activities they were doing at the age of 30, 40 or 50,” Wolf-Klein said. “There is a group of marathon runners out in California achieving times that are equivalent to what a good athlete in their 20s or 30s would be doing. There’s no reason to assume that age alone would curtail activity.”
However, it’s important that before an elderly individual begins a new sport or exercise, he or she should speak with a medical professional.
“Like everything else, moderation is key,” Wolf-Klein said.