Activities That Are Linked to Longevity

Posted 01/09/2017 | By HealthCorps

Want to live longer? A new study suggests that if you swim, dance or play tennis, then the payoff may be extending your life.

The new study that looked at various types of exercise and then the risk levels of dying from heart disease or stroke, found that some very specific sports showed significant health benefits, enough so, that the authors of the study have urged doctors and policymakers to encourage people to embrace these physical activities.

This study analyzed data from eleven annual health surveys that were done in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008 which involved 80,306 adults with a mean age of 50.  The participants were asked a variety of questions about:

  • The type of exercise they engage with
  • How much time that had devoted to the exercise in the four weeks prior to filling out the survey
  • Whether their efforts were enough to make them breathless or sweaty

The exercises that were described included heavy home chores and gardening, walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics, gymnastics or dance, running, football or rugby, badminton, tennis or squash. The researchers also tracked the survival of each participant for an average of nine years.  During the nine years, 8,790 subjects died from “all causes,” and 1,909 died from heart disease or stroke.

Compared to participants who did not engage with exercise at all, risk of death was 47percent lower among subjects who played racquet sports, 28 percent lower among swimmers, 27 percent lower among fans of dance aerobics, and 15 percent lower among cyclists.

When specifically looking at death from heart disease or stroke, the study found that racquet sports’ players had a 56 percent lower risk, swimmers had a 41 percent lower risk and aerobics enthusiasts had a 36 percent lower risk, compared to non-exercisers.

The researchers also found quite surprisingly that there was no “statistically significant” added advantage for people who were regular runners, football players or rugby players, though a lower rate of death (overall) was noted.  Independent researchers suggest that this is a fluke and due to the design of the study.  These independent researchers want to make sure that individuals don’t abandon current exercise modalities that they enjoy and are committed to, because of these new findings.  Other studies have shown that runners live longer and suffer less heart disease.  It’s clear that larger cohort studies are needed to really flush out “best exercise practices” for preventing disease and for extending life.  And exercise is only beneficial if you like it and do it!!

In the meantime, get your kids moving and help them to find an exercise discipline or sport that they really enjoy.  Starting kids at a young age ensures that they will likely remain active throughout their teen years and into adulthood.  Exercising and physically playing with them will also help to set an “active tone” to the family dynamics.

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