Why do we do it? Results from the World Masters Games (2009)


Sometimes I think I’m seen as a fitness fanatic, an obssessive-compulsive exerciser, an exercise addict. For me, it’s just normal, it’s what I do, it’s just part of my normal day. It’s only when I get together with mates or am hurting climbing a hill by myself on the bike, or 2 hours into a run in the heat that I sometimes think, why do I do these things? For me personally it’s about health and fitness, weight control (love that food!), it’s pushing the limits to see what my body can or can’t do, how I respond to training, and to be honest, keeping youngsters honest! Here is some recent research that found that for athletes competing at the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney, it is socialising, getting physically fit and improving PB’s that are the key drivers

The Research

This study evaluated psychological constructs of health, physical fitness, mental health states, and social dimension factors in sport that were associated with factors to participate in sport and physical activity based on responses from the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney. The sample consisted of 7846 athletes who competed at the games and who completed a 56-item sports participation survey using a 7-point Likert response (1 – not important to 7 – very important). Questions focuses on factors thought to promote participation, such as weight control, living longer, improving mental health (self-esteem, mood states), improving physical health and factors related to the athlete’s competitive perspective.

The Results

 The most significant factors related to participation of athletes at the World Masters Games in 2009 were the socialising environment of sport, getting physically fit, and improving personal best performances. Other factors such as weight loss, improving mental health, and living longer were not identified as important determinants of spprts participation at the Games. The table below shows the top 10 (of 56) ‘very important’ factors.

Ranking Item Very Important (%)
1 To socialise with other participants 40.4
2 To improve my health 38.6
3 To become more physically fit 38.2
4 To stay in physical condition 32.1
5 To improve my sporting performance 28.1
6 To compete with others 27.8
7 To participate with my family or friends 26.9
8 To push myself beyond my current limit 26.3
9 To compete with myself 25.2
10 To try to perform better 22.9

So What?

Results from national surveys on motivators for adult participation in sport and physical recreation, at least in Australia, suggest the key drivers for participation are predominantly focused on factors of health, enjoyment, social and family outcomes in sport and physical recreation. The present study suggests masters athletes, at least those competing at the World Masters Games, may have similar motivations but that socialising appears to be the number one driver. Regardless of what the reasons are for being involved with masters sport, stay active for life I say!
Source: Heazlewood, I. and others (2011). Sport psychological constructs related to participation in the 2009 World Masters Games. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 77: 970-972.