Exercise Helps Keep Hearts Young & Happy

Polk Senior Games Include a Heap of Heart-Healthy Activities

by MARY TOOTHMAN

Introducing or stepping-up regular exercise programs can result in dramatic improvements to the lives of the 65 and older population— and the emphasis on heart health this month offers an ideal opportunity to spread the word.

In a 2010 Center for Disease Control study, more than 30 percent of those 65 and older indicated no leisure time physical activity in their leisure-time they need it.

And locally, the upcoming Polk Senior Games will soon offer lots of ways older people can participate in heart-friendly activities.

Polk Senior Games offers an annual series of competitive athletic and recreational events for men and women 50 years and over. There’s something for just about everyone— from the highly competitive to the just-having-fun participant. People who are physically challenged can find a niche as well.

Many of the categories included in the games match recommendations made by the American Heart Association (AHA) on how seniors can stay fit.

Polk County residency is not required to participate in the games, which include archery, bag toss, basketball shooting, billiards, bowling, bridge, checkers, fishing, fly casting, golf, horseshoes, and lawn bowling.

On its heart.org site, the AHA cites many of the benefits of physical activity for seniors. Examples include increase of muscle strength, improvement of balance and coordination, improved quality of life, and reduced incidences of coronary heart disease.

Studies have shown that increased levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, hypertension, non-insulin dependent Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, depression, and anxiety.

Many people who participate in the annual games event are already on top of the benefits of exercise.

This year’s Polk Senior Games— marking the event’s 26th year— will be held Feb. 24 through March 12 at various locations throughout Polk County. Registration began the first week of January. Entries must be received by Feb. 9— there are no late or onsite registrations.

Entry fees are $10 for the first event and $3 for each additional event— up to a maximum of $28. There are additional fees for bowling, golf, archery, shooting, and team sports. All participants will receive a PSG t-shirt. General sponsorships and volunteers make it possible for the event to be held.

The games qualify participants to advance to the annual Florida Senior Games— leading up to the biannual National Senior Games.

The Polk Senior Games event was founded in 1992 by Nancy Thornberry of Lakeland. There were 777 participants that year. By 2013, nearly 2,500 people participated.

Participants, family, and friends are invited to attend the closing celebration at the Youkey Theatre and the RP Funding Center on March 12. Admission and parking are free. The health fair starts at 12:30 p.m. and the ceremony starts at 2 p.m.

PSG is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), organization managed by a salaried executive director and a volunteer board of directors. For detailed information about the games, go to polkseniorgames.org.

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