The activity that can add almost a decade to your life

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There is indisputable evidence that exercise is vital to our health. But new research goes one step further and pinpoints the types of sports that are most effective in combatting the effects of ageing.

These are sports that most people can participate in at some level, and the benefits go far beyond the physical, according to the study.

Researchers tracked close to 9000 people for up to 25 years, noting which physical activity they did and when they died, and incorporated data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study into heart health.

The study, Various Leisure-Time Physical Activities Associated With Widely Divergent Life Expectancies, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, evaluated the improvements in life expectancy associated with participation in various sports and found that the most dramatic benefits were experienced by those involved in social sports.

Of all sports tracked, tennis offered the most benefits, ahead of soccer, swimming and cycling, it found.

The sports associated with the biggest increases in life expectancy were tennis (9.7 years), badminton (6.2 years) and soccer (4.7 years).

Sports near the bottom of the list were more likely to be done alone, with jogging (3.2 years) and going to the gym (1.5 years) singled out by researchers.

“It appears that the single most important feature of one’s exercise routine is that it should involve a play-date,” said Dr James O’Keefe, cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute. “Play is Mother Nature’s remedy for stress.

“If we are looking for an exercise to improve longevity, we would do well to get together regularly with at least one other person to do some physical activity that feels like fun.”

He said the study aligned with another breaking research project recently published in The Lancet.

The Lancet study also found that among the various types of exercise, it was the activities that required two or more people to play together such as team sports (basketball, soccer, etc.) and group activities like racquet sports or golf that were best for improving mental health.”

Study lead author Dr Peter Schnohr said that factors such age, sex, smoking, income and education status had the potential to affect the results, but that those factors had been controlled in the analysis – and the effect persisted.

Professor Cathie Sherrington, a research fellow at the University of Sydney’s Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, takes a different view on the topic, arguing that team sports aren’t the only physical activities that can be social.

“Myself, I’m part of a running group where we have quite large numbers of middle-aged, younger and older people running together,” she told the ABC. “And we do see very large groups of cyclists as well, meeting and riding together and chatting.

“So I do think you can get social connectedness in different sports. It doesn’t just need to be in racquet sports.”

She urged people to stay as active as they could, for as long as possible.

“I think there is a little bit of a perception among some people that it’s more appropriate to slow down. But really, the evidence is that people should be doing exercise [that’s] as intensive as they can manage,” she said.

Do you play a sport? Do you find the social benefits to be as important as the physical? Are you trying to stay as active as possible?

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Total Comments: 10
  1. 0

    Too much general advice which may be unsuitable for many people of older age.
    All the sports mentioned claiming to increase life expectancy are also sports which a) you cannot do if you have osteoarthritis which is common as you age, and b) are more likely to cause injury, therefore osteoarthritis, and thereafter reduce your ability to do exercises!

    Also, if you do get osteoarthritis, chances are they (medical people) will blame you for hurting your joints by doing such “intensive” exercises which the professor is suggesting!

    Best to stick to Walking only (not on hard pavements), of course as much add you can! Or, maybe, water (hydrotherapy) exercises with less chance of hurting yourself.

    • 0

      The problem with your theory George is that exercise is one of the main ways to both prevent and ease osteoarthritis and many other so called diseases of aging. The real issue is that people refuse to do it even though it is proven to ease painful symptoms.

  2. 0

    Old time new vogue dancing is a great gentle exercise for seniors and also for all age groups. learning the dances keeps your mind active plus the benefits of social interaction as well as the movement on the dance floor

  3. 0

    Jogging and some other sports often lead to injuries that cause the need or hip or knee replacement surgery. I have been told by several medical professionals that hip surgery is hard to recover from. Shoulder surgery is quite common in contact sports too, we don’t hear as much about them as recovery time is often quicker if patients persist in doing exercises. A lot don’t finish them because of the pain while they are doing them.

    • 0

      I have an immediate relative who has had knee and shoulder replacement surgery. I base my information on his experiences and those given by to orthopedic surgeons.

    • 0

      Spot on Blossom. Osteoarthritis in many joints cause me to neglect exercise these days. I work outside (in my yard) quite a bit, but; I’ve also had shoulder replacement – reasonably successful, but with somewhat limited movement. Also knee replacement 5 yrs. ago – not really good. Hoping for further attention for which I am not wealthy enough. (It’s a waiting game.) The orthopaedic surgeon did not know what to make of me after 2 yrs. and gave up. So, even walking is not something to which I can look forward. The more exercise I undertake; the longer the period of pain continues.

      It’s not infrequently suggested by some to ‘go for a walk’. Not too many years ago, walking was my favourite activity. Not too many years before that, it was aerobics.

  4. 0

    I started running 5 years ago and joined parkrun over 3 years ago. It is a free timed 5k run and is very social. There are all ages there from babies in prams to older people. You can walk, jog or run and are just competing against yourself.
    I didn’t know anyone when I went there but I have made many friends who encourage me. We go for coffee afterwards. I wouldn’t miss parkrun on a Saturday whether it is running or volunteering.

    • 0

      Good on you Daisy. Keep it up. It has also been proven that exercising outside in natural surroundings like parks and beaches is good for mental health. 30 minutes a couple of times a week can even be more beneficial than medications for mild to moderate depression. So it’s not just physical benefits that exercise provides.

  5. 0

    Swimming such as hydrotherapy is supposed to be good for arthritis along with dancing and walking,



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