Mounting evidence shows that eating a healthy, balanced diet and keeping fit offers a robust defence against life-threatening complications, such as heart disease. Committing to both is a sure-fire way to extend longevity. Exercise advice, like dietary advice, can sometimes seem overwhelming, however, especially if a person is getting fit for the first time. Fortunately, a recent study provides some insight into the best exercise for boosting longevity.
Partaking in team sports may be more conducive to a long life than solitary exercises
According to a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, partaking in team sports may be more conducive to a long life than solitary exercises. The study suggests that the social aspect of team sports further boosts the health benefits of physical activity.
The research says that tennis, badminton and football are all better for longevity than cycling, jogging or gym exercise.
“For both mental and physical well-being and longevity, we’re understanding that our social connections are probably the single-most important feature of living a long, healthy, happy life,” said study co-author Dr. James O’Keefe, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute.
He added: “If you’re interested in exercising for health and longevity and well-being, perhaps the most important feature of your exercise regimen is that it should involve a playdate.”
The study analysed data from about 8,500 adults who were part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study.
The Copenhagen City Heart Study is a large prospective cardio-vascular population study of 20,000 women and men.
All of the people were white, and none had a history of heart disease, stroke or cancer, so the findings may be limited to this narrow population.
They completed a comprehensive health and lifestyle questionnaire, which included questions about type and frequency of physical activity, and were monitored by the researchers for around 25 years, during which time about 4,500 died.
Though many of the participants reported doing multiple physical activities each week, they were asked to assign one as their primary form of exercise. The researchers used these answers to look for associations with longevity, and adjusted for factors including socioeconomic background, education and drinking.
After doing so, they noticed a clear correlation between social sports and longevity. Compared to sedentary people, they found that those who reported playing tennis as their main form of exercise could expect to add 9.7 years to their lifespan, followed by badminton (6.2 years), soccer (4.7 years), cycling (3.7 years), swimming (3.4 years), jogging (3.2 years), calisthenics (3.1 years) and health club activities (1.5 years).
Dr O’Keefe suggests the wellbeing aspect of team sports may account for the link. “When we try to just go and work out to get our heart rate up, it still feels good. But it doesn’t leave you as relaxed and happy as, say, going to play a game of basketball or golf,” he said.
Tennis places particular emphasis on social interaction, he noted: “At every point you’re talking. It’s just a very natural way to emotionally bond with people, besides getting your exercise.”
He added: “Any exercise is better than none, but when our physical activity also allows us to play, it basically magnifies the benefits, because you get not only the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular benefits of physical exercise, but you also get that emotional bonding, which turns out to be probably just as important.”
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