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Health Education for Former Elite Athletes

Finding effective weight and fat loss after retirement.

Older athlete following health education by hydrating

Education about the benefits of exercise, good eating habits and other “well-living” parameters is important for those who were athletes in their younger years.

After retirement, many former athletes who excelled at sport struggle with weight gain and following a healthy lifestyle. An international research group created the “Champ4Life” program to help former athletes, particularly those who gained substantial weight and fat mass. Researchers divided 94 men and women, all former athletes, into either a control group or a health education group for observation for 1 year.

Health education participants attended 12 sessions that provided physical activity, weight management and diet education. They received a nutrition program designed to reduce daily calories by approximately 300–500 calories per day. Investigators collected biometric data on body composition and cardiometabolic health and measured general health-related life quality.

After 1 year, health education group members lost more weight and body fat, improved cardiometabolic biomarkers, and increased life quality, compared with the control group. This study shows the power of education and information to facilitate healthy change among former athletes.

The research is reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2021; doi:10.1136/bjsports-2021-104212).

See also: Motivating Older Athletes

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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