Compared to other activities, racket sports, swimming, aerobics, and cycling were the best exercises to help prolong life, the study concluded. They also found those who participated in these sports had a much lower chance of dying from heart disease and stroke. No such associations were found for those who played other sports like running or jogging and football or rugby.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, analyzed 80,000 participants across England and Scotland who participated in national health surveys between 1994 and 2008. Each of the participants had an average age of 52 and were asked how much physical activity they had done in the last couple months — only 44% were getting enough exercise.
After the survey, participants’ were monitored for an average of 9 years — 8,790 of them died from various causes including 1,909 from cardiovascular diseases.
They found that the risk of death from any cause was 47% lower for those who played racket sports; 28% lower for swimmers; 27% lower for those who regularly attend aerobics classes; and 15% lower for cyclists, compared to those who didn’t play these sports.
Looking at the risk of death from heart disease and stroke, racket sports players had a 56% lower risk, swimmers had a 41% lower risk and aerobics participants had a 36% lower risk compared with those who didn’t play these sports.
“We found robust associations between participation in certain types of sport and exercise and mortality, indicating substantial reductions in all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality for swimming, racquet sports and aerobics and in all-cause mortality for cycling,” the researchers wrote.
“The growing evidence should support the sport community to develop and promote health-enhancing sport programmes to reach more people and contribute to greater proportion of population meeting the physical activity guidelines for health.”