Play till you're grey

If the thought of spending Saturdays as a spectator scares you to death, these simple steps will help prolong your game

Brain training
Keep your mind on the game for years to come by assessing where you can improve after every match. Studies of Dutch players by researchers from the University of Groningen suggest that self-reflection and critical evaluation of your own performance contributes to longer, more successful careers. Players who self-analyse were found to be more aware of weaknesses in their game and invested more effort into focused practice than their less analytical peers.

Ease your knees
Strong knees can contribute to your running speed and endurance while reducing the likelihood of developing injuries, but weak or ageing ones need special attention. “Working out using stability tools like a BOSU platform can help to engage and strengthen muscles around the knee joint,” says Nick Grantham, fitness and conditioning trainer with Middlesbrough. “Maintain your fitness with low-impact drills in the swimming pool; using a rowing machine can ease the wear and tear, too.”

Prime your reflexes
Short of herding cats on a daily basis there’s not a lot you can do to speed up your reflexes – but you can maintain sharpness. “It’s horses for courses, but racquet sports that rely on sharp hand-eye co-ordination can help,” says Grantham. So, too, do shoot-’em-up video games. Dutch researchers at Leiden University concluded that playing video games helps the natural reflexes – it makes players more responsive and able to switch between different tasks.

Skill school
Maintaining your unbelievable tekkers when all around you begin to sag can be done by simply halving the pitch you’re playing on. Researchers from Spain found that by alternating pitch sizes – so playing 11-a-side, followed by 5-a-side and even a 2 vs 1 keep-ball game – during training sessions, coaches could raise the number of interceptions, clearances, shots and ball control moves a player experienced and in turn improve their technical ability.

Breathe easy
Stretching and upper body workouts not only work chest muscles but also keep your diaphragm primed and your posture in check, which aids your circulation and fitness levels. To keep your lungs in full working order as you age, snack on at least two apples a week. University of Southampton researchers found that the fruit is packed with histamine-blocking compounds, which help you breathe unobstructed.

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