Biggest Prize for Veterans

An African American practicing wheelchair basketball skills at the local park

Last week was the National Veterans Golden Age Games (NVGAC), an annual event sponsored by the Veterans Canteen Service at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The NGVAC is an opportunity for veterans to participate in a wide range of sporting activities and to qualify for the National Senior Games. In 2022, nearly 400 athletes from 42 states and the District of Columbia competed in 14 sports.

NVGAC was founded in 1985 for veterans who are 55 years or older. The games offer health education and sports competition to encourage “Fitness for Life.” The purpose is to use sports, wellness, and fitness to help senior veterans live an active and healthy lifestyle.

Physical activity is vital for veterans’ health and wellbeing. Being on active military duty requires a high level of daily physical activity; most veterans no longer in service are inactive and don’t meet the physical activity guidelines. Research has shown that physical activity can have tremendous positive impacts for veterans. One review of 11 studies found that sport and other movement activities can help reduce PTSD symptoms while enforcing coping skills, build determination and inner strength, reinforce identity and social well-being, and enhance motivation for living.  

This year’s NVGAC took place in Des Moines, Iowa. Yearlong preparation in teams or as individuals for the events was encouraged to promote health and competition. Athletes could participate in up to five sports and within one of eight different age brackets. Because all veterans are encouraged to join in, there were separate divisions for ambulatory, wheelchair, and visually impaired participants. Some sports (like air rifle, basketball free-throw, powerwalking, badminton, and tabletop tennis) even awarded medals and ribbons for top placements.

Regardless of who earns the medals and ribbons, all NVGAC participants won big for their own health. And that’s the biggest prize of all.

Sources: Department of Veterans Affairs; 2022 National Veterans Golden Age Games video; VA News; National Library of Medicine; Syracuse University.

Categories: Senior Health