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Five Sports for Living Longer – Life Extension Through Sport


Written by Dr. Chris Smith, Updated on May 23rd, 2020
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One of the critical components of a healthy lifestyle is exercise. The following are five sports that have been clinically shown to have a positive impact on longevity. Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis, a researcher at the University of Sydney explains that not all sports are created equal when it comes to longevity. Dr. Stamatakis recently published a study that measured the effect of several sports and athletic activities on long-term health and mortality.



Walking to Live Longer

The small things account for a lot in life, and the same goes for exercise. Adding a walking routine to your day can have a serious impact on mortality risk. In one study released by JAMA, it was estimated that people that walk 8,000 steps each day reduced their mortality risk over folks that only walk 4,000 steps by over half! Boost that up to 12,000 steps, and the mortality rate drops over 65%. The key to getting the most out of walking is to walk further, not faster. Perhaps surprisingly, the pace of walking had no impact on mortality risk, only the distance.

Tennis for Longevity

Tennis has been shown to have a more substantial influence on life expectancy than most other sports. Regular Tennis players were found to live almost a decade longer than folks that didn't exercise. Racquet sports, in general, provide an excellent means to exercise at your own pace in a friendly, competitive environment.

When Dr. Stamatakis assessed the overall benefit of racquet sports (also including games like badminton and squash), his team discovered that these leisure-time athletes had a mortality risk of almost half that of individuals that did not participate in racquet sports. It's hypothesized that highly social sports provide the best benefits to longevity, combining good exercise with healthy socialization.

Swimming Adds Laps To Your Life

It's been generally accepted that swimming is one of the best ways to get in shape. It's a full-body workout that targets hard-to-reach muscles. Like tennis, it's a form of exercise that you can adapt to your own strength/energy level. Dr. Stamatakis and associates found that swimmers had significantly lower risk of cardiovascular complications and a 28% reduction in mortality risk compared to non-swimmers.

Aerobic Exercise for Health and Life

Aerobic exercise is any activity, from cycling to dancing, that gets your heart rate pumped up and keeps you active for an extended period. Researchers found that folks that engage in aerobic exercise experience around a 27% reduction in mortality risk, along with a 36% decreased heart risk.

Aerobic exercise is particularly promising for longevity because High-Intensity Interval Training and endurance training have both been found to increase telomere length and slow cellular aging. Anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting, is beneficial to health in other ways but does not appear to affect cellular aging.

Running for Your Life

While walking provides excellent benefits, consider running as long as you're capable. Even short intervals of running can be a boon to life expectancy. Any length of running correlated with a 27% reduction of mortality risk, also reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. You don't even have to run daily or even three times per week! A single extended jog per week also provides real benefits. And you don't have to run yourself to death. Over-training provided no additional benefits than a reasonable running routine.

Bottom Line—It's Not All About What You Do—It's About Keeping Active! Do what you enjoy and try to exercise with other people!

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