Most people, as they enter their sixth decade, settle for a quiet life. If they once ran long distances, scaled mountain tops or navigated caves, their sporting ambitions reduce to the bowling green or golf course. But there are a few seniors for whom extreme sports remain an attraction, perhaps a drug. But also a way to remain active as they age.
There will be some that go the other way – having lead a sedentary and office bound life, they seek thrills and adventure in their senior years or try to recapture their youth.
Either way, let us salute the practioners of extreme sports for seniors. Life would be dull if we all stayed in our comfort zone.
Running is a great exercise for seniors – according to the NHS regular running can reduce your risk of long-term illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.
Notable extreme runners include:
Fauja Singh BEM is a British Sikh centenarian marathon runner. Born in 1911, Singh did not walk until he was five years old. His legs were thin and weak, and he could hardly walk long distances. The death of his wife in 1992, and his eldest daughter who had died from complications after giving birth to his third granddaughter, gave him the determination for this new focus in life. He emigrated to England in the 1990s, and at 89 years old he started running seriously and progressed to international marathon events. Google lists him as the world’s oldest marathon runner.
Singh has completed the London marathon six times after making his debut there in 2000 at the age of 89, and has since finished marathons in Toronto, New York and more cities.
Eileen Noble ran her 19th marathon at the age of 84. She started running in her 50s, and in 2019 she was the oldest female runner to compete at London. She completed the virtual marathon in 2020 in a time of 8 hours and 4 minutes.
According to Wired for Adventure “, the best hikes are the extreme hikes. The type of adventure that gets your blood pumping, the adrenaline flowing and has moments that’ll give you the same feeling as when you miss that bottom step on the stairs (and your stomach literally jumps into your mouth)”.
There is no doubt that hiking can be a great hobby for active seniors. It’s a great avenue toward improved fitness, an opportunity to explore different parts of the countryside and a way to experience some magificent vistas not available to the mere walker (or driver). It also has a social aspect – challenging trails in the company of others is provides an opportunity to build friendships and shared experiences.
Extreme hiking though is of a different scale. Length of climb, steepness of the peak, weather conditions and the terrain can all challenge the strongest and fittest. If strength and fitness inevitably decline as we age, those challenges become even more acute. Add in a spice of danger – life on the edge!
But what is life, if not a challenge? So scaling that peak, achieving that distant goal, that glorious feeling of wearied exhaustion will not be achieved from the sofa.
Suddenly Senior has a great description of the experience of skydiving, and promotes the activity with the headline “Life is short. Jump at it!” And the appeal is obvious – the adrenaline rush of throwing yourself out of a perfectly servicable aeroplane and crossing your fingers as the earth approaches rapidly is unique.
The benefit of this activity is that you only need to be in reasonable health – the other categories of extreme sports require training, dedication, equipment and the devotion of time. But skydiving can be experienced by finding a provider and going for it. And it’s the things you don’t do that you later regret.
Water adds another dimension to the choice extreme sports for seniors. It has advantages – it’s a low impact aerobic activity, providing cardio benefits without joint damage. It does of course require some stringent safety precautions, and as with all extreme sports these are most important for aging bodies.
But scuba diving offers the opportunity to explore new worlds, sites and sensations that other earth bound activities cannot match. The ability to experience weightlessness, explore old wrecks and swim with exotic species are just a few reasons why suba diving might be on your bucket list.
For the truly amazing scuba experience, you will need expert help, diving qualifications and hi tech equipment. If you can put these together with the required level of fitness, there are underwater caves to explore and creatures of the night to be found.
Extremet Sports for Seniors – add them to your bucket list if you dare. Because life is about experiences, memories, challenges. And you won’t get those by sitting on the sofa.