A recent study by the British Journal of Sports has revealed a list of exercises and sports that increase your life span, and racquet sports were ranked the highest on the list. Tennis topped the list, with the potential to lower your risk of death from heart disease and stroke by 56 percent.The large-scale study included 80,306 adults from England and Scotland, all 30 years or older, with an average age of 52 years old. Participants were quizzed on their health and exercise through national surveys conducted at different points between 1994 and 2008. Every adult was quizzed about what type of physical activity they had done in the preceding 4 weeks along with the how frequently they exercised and the intensity and duration of their workouts.
The survival of the patients was surveyed on an average of nine years later. Out of all the participants, 8,790 had died, with 1,909 deaths due to cardiovascular disease. The results of the study revealed that only 44% of the participants met the national guidelines for the recommended 150 minutes of exercise every week.
The researchers then compared the risk of death among those who took part in a sport to those who did not participate in that particular activity, taking into account factors such as age, sex, whether they smoked, BMI, other exercise and education.
By the end of the study risk of death was 47 percent lower among those who played racquet sports, 28 percent lower among swimmers, 27 percent lower among aerobics fans, and 15 percent lower among cyclists. In contrast, running and football had little to no effect on life span, although this could be due to the nature of the study.
When looking at just the risk of death from cardiovascular disease they found that swimming reduced the risk by 41 percent, racket sports by 56 percent and aerobics by 36 percent. Running, cycling and football showed no significant statistical effect.
Despite this, Charlie Foster, co-author of the study from the University of Oxford, says that those who enjoy running or playing football should not give up the activity just yet. “We are 100% certain that we know participation in these sports is good for you, that is very clear, but what we haven’t seen yet is how well those benefits translate over the long-term into preventing death” said Foster. He points out that there are many factors that could be behind the little significance shown in the study regarding these sports.
Based on the study researchers have concluded: “These findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health,” adding that they should help health professionals promote people getting involved in regular sports as good way of staying healthy. Melissa Leber MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopedics, at Mount Sinai says “There is a huge increase in doing interval training in gyms and structured workouts but fundamentally, playing tennis is like doing intervals — you’re sprinting and pivoting and giving big, short bursts of energy.”
In fact, playing tennis for just an hour burns up to 600 calories and engages every one of your muscles. So next time you plan to hit the gym, pick up a racquet instead!