Posted on Apr 24, 2020, 4 p.m.
Any amount of exercise is good exercise, in addition to helping to make you healthier some sports and exercises can even help to make you love longer. However, this is not to say that all exercise is on equal playing fields when it comes to longevity.
“It’s not only how much and how often, but also what type of exercise you do that seems to make the difference [in longevity],” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, MSc, BSc, professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health, School of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Australia.
There are some sports and exercise that appear to make the most difference in terms of longevity and these include but are not limited to walking, tennis, swimming, aerobics, and running.
You might want to consider putting on those shoes to take a walk on the mild side to help increase your longevity. According to a study recently published in JAMA comparing adults who walked 4,000 steps a day to those taking 8,000 steps a day those who took more steps had a 51% lower risk of all cause mortality, and those who walked 12,000 steps had a 65% lower risk of all cause mortality compared to those taking 4,000. Additionally, walking faster provided no added benefits, only walking farther was linked with increased longevity; and more steps daily was associated with lower mortality rates for cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The ball may be in your court if you want to live longer. Tennis and racquet sports can even be done during social distancing as they require players to stand well beyond six feet from each other. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine involving more than 80,000 adults over the age of 30 found that those who played tennis or other racquets sports like squash or badminton had a 47% lower risk of all cause mortality than those who didn’t, and those who played racquet sports also had a 56% lower risk of cardiovascular disease related mortality.
Another study comparing eight different sports found that playing tennis had the greatest increase in life expectancy of 9.7 years longer compared to those who did no exercise, and badminton added an extra 6.2 years. “Interestingly, the leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction [like racquet sports] were associated with the best longevity—a finding that warrants further investigation,” the authors concluded.
If you want to increase both your health and lifespan you may want to just dive right in the waters as according to Dr. Stamatakis and colleagues those who swim on a regular basis have a 28% lower risk of all cause mortality compared to those who don’t swim; swimmers were also found to have had a 41% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to non-swimmers.
You may want to break out those leg warmers and get physical as those who participate in aerobic exercise which includes gymnastics, keep fit, and dance for fitness have been found to have a 27% lower risk of all cause mortality and a 36% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, according to Dr. Stamatakis and associates.
A randomized controlled study published in the European Heart Journal showed that aerobic endurance training and HIIT increased telomerase activity and telomere length, which are key indicators of cellular aging, to lower mortality risk on both a physical and cellular level.
It’s not all run and game, you may want to develop a running plan if you want to extend your longevity. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine Running found that compared to no running any amount of running was associated with a 27% lower risk of all cause mortality, and running was associated with a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as a 23% lower risk of cancer mortality. The researchers found that even sparse intervals of running were still associated with significant health and longevity benefits. “This may be encouraging for people who struggle to find the time to exercise, given that a perceived lack of time has been consistently identified as a key barrier to physical activity participation,” they wrote.
The bottom line is that physical activity is about more than just living longer, it is also about having fun while improving your health to live better. “Being physically active has many benefits, including reducing a person’s risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. And on a daily basis, it can help people feel better and sleep better,” said Janet Fulton, PhD, chief, Physical Activity and Health Branch, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the CDC.
Exercise has been proven to be more effective and better when it is enjoyable which is why it is important to find something you enjoy. Exercise can also be more fun if it is done with a friend or in a group, provided there are no restrictions in place for social distancing that is. Research shows that people are more likely to continue exercising if they enjoy what they are doing.
“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,” said cardiologist James O’Keefe, MD, medical director, Charles and Barbara Duboc Cardio Health & Wellness Center, Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO.
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