Which sports might actually save your life?

By: Jim Evans, VERDURE General Manager

Americans love sports but, clearly, some sports are not “lifetime” sports in the sense that they will provide lifetime health benefits. They might be challenging and enjoyable at a certain time in your life, but they are probably not the kind of sports that you would want to – or be able to – continue as you age.  In fact, some might be actually detrimental to your long-term health while others might actually offer some life-saving benefits.

So, what sports might actually provide long-term life-saving benefits?

According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, an international research collaboration has found that – specifically – swimming, cycling, aerobics, and racquet sports offer life-saving benefits compared to running and football.

The study, headed by the University of Sydney, examined more than 80,000 adults over the age of 30 and with an average age of 52 over a span of 16 years between 1994 and 2008 to explore the link between these six specific sports and death.  The study found that death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) was reduced in people who participated in swimming, racquet sports and aerobics.

Moreover, compared with study participants who did not participate in the corresponding sport, risk of death from any cause was:

  • 47 per cent lower among those who played racquet sports (tennis, squash, badminton)
  • 28 per cent lower among swimmers
  • 27 per cent lower among those who participated in aerobics
  • 15 per cent lower among cyclists.

Compared with study participants who did not participate in the corresponding sport, risk of death from cardiovascular disease was:

  • 56 per cent lower among those who played racquet sports
  • 41 per cent lower among swimmers
  • 36 per cent lower among those who participated in aerobics.

According to senior author Associate Professor Emannuel Stamatakis from the Charles Perkins Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences and School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, “Our findings indicate that it’s not only how much and how often, but also what type of exercise you do that seems to make the difference.”

“Participation in specific sports may have various benefits for health,” he said. “These observations with the existing evidence should support the sport community together with other sectors to design and implement effective health enhancing exercise programs and physical activity in general.”

So, while almost any form of physical activity will provide benefits to enhance your quality of life and overall health, your choice of exercise might be a factor to consider for actual life-saving benefits.

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