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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Too Late to Skate? Ice Skating After 50

Too Late to Skate? Ice Skating After 50

Call it healthy aging or preventing age-related illness and injury, but it’s no secret that many of the challenges of growing older can be met, head-on, by embracing some form of exercise. In fact, The National Center for Health Statistics reports only 30% of adults ages 45 to 64 exercise regularly, resulting in burgeoning numbers of overweight, tired and stress-ridden Americans at a time when the focus should be on health, energy, and prevention.

For Olympic bronze medalist and U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame member Nancy Ludington Graham, 71, returning to the sport six years ago, after retiring as a coach in 1987, was a pivotal decision. Currently coaching young skating hopefuls as well as adults and seniors, many of whom had never been on the ice before, Graham espouses the “physicality, musicality and sheer camaraderie” of the sport, citing increased flexibility and improved balance as key components in the healthy aging process.

“It’s the sort of sport that can be done at any level,” Graham said. “In their 50s, 60s, and up, skaters may not necessarily want to jump and spin, but they can move, dance, and have a wonderful time.”

Acknowledging that many sports require pre-conditioning, Graham doesn’t discount the value of elements such as strength training, cardio workouts, and yoga for some. She affirmed that skating is a workout in itself, however, with coordination, endurance, more muscle strength, and added bone density as the byproducts of a consistent rink regimen.

“When you’re out there, you’re totally focused on what you’re doing,” Graham explained, referencing other advantages that include a sense of freedom and escape from everyday pressures. With lessons — available at local rinks and through skating clubs — probably a good idea to learn the basics and decrease the chance of injury, skating’s social merits can offset the depression and anxiety some seniors experience as part of the aging process.

For Bridget Woodward, 66, growing up on a pond in northern Maine had provided skating basics, though for several decades after, the only ice she routinely saw was in her freezer. Taking up the sport again 17 years ago, Woodward skates at rinks year round and has extended her passion to included freestyle, pairs skating (which she does on occasion with her ice hockey-playing husband, Mark), and ice dancing. She also has designs on the U.S. Adult Nationals competition in 2012, where the oldest competitor in 2007 was 81.

“Competition or not, when you skate with adults you have an instant camaraderie,” Woodward said. “People go out of their way to make you feel welcome. We’re all on the ice together, and we’re all doing similar things.”

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