Science says these are the best sports to play if you want to live longer

Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images.

If you want to keep your heart healthy, and live longer, playing sports such as tennis, squash, cycling and swimming will help.

The major international study, led by the University of Sydney, looked at the effect of six different “exercise disciplines” on 80,000 adults aged over 30 to investigate links between the sports they played and death. The six were cycling, swimming, racquet sports, aerobics, football and running.

Running and football offered the least benefits, while death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) was reduced in people who involved in racquet sports, swimming and aerobics.

Compared with study participants who did not participate in the corresponding sport, risk of death from any cause was:

  • 47% lower among those who played racquet sports (tennis, squash, badminton)
  • 28% lower among swimmers
  • 27% lower among those who participated in aerobics
  • 15% lower among cyclists.

  • Compared with study participants who did not participate in the corresponding sport, risk of death from cardiovascular disease was:

  • 56% lower among those who played racquet sports
  • 41% lower among swimmers
  • 36% lower among those who participated in aerobics.

  • The figures were from data drawn from 11 annual health surveys for England and Scotland, carried out between 1994 and 2008. The average age of the adults in the study was 52 and they were asked about how much physical activity they had done in the preceding four weeks, and whether it had been enough to make them breathless and sweaty.

    Associate professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, and the study’s senior author, said the finding suggested that the type of exercise you do matters alongside how much and how often.

    “Participation in specific sports may have various benefits for health. These observations with the existing evidence should support the sport community together with other sectors to design and implement effective health enhancing exercise programs and physical activity in general,” he said.

    The University of Oxford, UKK Institute (Finland), University of Edinburgh, and four other international universities collaborated on the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine today.

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