George Sperzel wasn’t a big exerciser in his younger years. But when he as approaching 60, he decided to take up competitive running. Now he’s 63 and estimates that he’s run more than a hundred races during the last few years. “I have found that focused training will deliver the same benefits for aging athletes as for anyone of any age,” said George.

George may be an exception, but he’s also part of a trend in competitive running. Runners over 40 are known as “masters.” In the past, the majority of those who finished marathons were the young competitors. Now, masters make up over 50% of male finishers and 40% of female finishers. “We’ve never had so many people starting to get active later in life and stay active through their advancing years,” said Greg McMillan, head coach and owner of McMillan running.

Studies estimate that 80% of the general population is physically active, but only a third of those over 65 are. According to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “A lot of the deterioration we see with aging can be attributed to a more sedentary lifestyle instead of aging itself… The prevalence of age-related chronic diseases and physical dysfunction is substantially reduced or even absent in older adults who continue to train and compete in athletic competitions.”