Exercising should be a love game – but what sport is best?

Research found seven sports most linked to living longer.

What are they?

Key Points

  • Being active and exercising have mental and physical health benefits
  • Half of all adults (USA) don’t do enough exercise
  • Exercising socially has even greater benefits

Being active is essential for good mental and physical health and wellbeing. It reduces the risk of many diseases, including some cancers, and helps maintain a healthy weight.

However, taking the USA as a guide for how regularly we may exercise - only about half of Americans (53.3%) meet the recommended physical activity guidelines for aerobic exercise of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Exercise with others

Going to the gym, running, or even pounding on the treadmill to nowhere isn't to everyone’s liking, especially as we grow older. But scientists are learning that alternate modes of exercise—including ones that might take you right back to childhood—might help you feel younger and live longer.

Researchers have found that leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction were associated with the best longevity—a finding they say that warrants further investigation.

A 2019 study published in BMC Public Health adds to the evidence that social factors play a large role. Japanese scientists found that consistent exercise is linked to longevity, and those who report sweating with family and friends have even longer healthy life expectancies than those who went at it alone.

While it might seem strange that who you exercise with makes a difference along with how and how much you exercise, it does make sense based on the importance of social connections. Numerous studies have proven that social isolation is associated with increased mortality, so combining two healthy habits (socialising and exercising) can be a win-win for your wellbeing.

Which sports can add to lifespan?

Benefits of healthy exercising

For adults, being active regularly can: 

According to research in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings involving data from The Copenhagen City Heart Study (CCHS), certain sports can help you live stronger and longer (the researchers admit that the jury is still out about whether the relationship is simply correlated or causal). Over 25 years of tracking more than 8,500 people, they found that these sports and activities increased life expectancy for active participants the most compared to sedentary peers:

  1. Tennis: 9.7 years
  2. Badminton: 6.2 years
  3. Soccer: 4.7 years
  4. Cycling: 3.7 years
  5. Swimming: 3.4 years
  6. Jogging: 3.2 years
  7. Calisthenics: 3.1 years

So, that explains why there can be so many seniors occupying tennis courts during weekdays! Also, before exercising find out what to eat before, during and afterwards.

Recommendations – depending on your level of fitness and age

Building activity into your day

Physical activity doesn’t have to be structured. Making some small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference. For example, you could:

  • walk or ride your bike for short trips instead of driving
  • drive to a ‘park and ride’ spot, and walk or ride your bike the rest of the way
  • use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
  • get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way
  • park further away from your destination and walk
  • walk to the park to eat lunch.

Adults should be active most days, preferably every day. Each week, adults should do either:

  • 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity – such as a brisk walk, golf, mowing the lawn or swimming
  • 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity – such as jogging, aerobics, fast cycling, soccer, or netball
  • an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities.

Include muscle-strengthening activities as part of your daily physical activity on at least 2 days each week. This can be:

  • push-ups
  • pull-ups
  • squats or lunges
  • lifting weights
  • household tasks that involve lifting, carrying, or digging.

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you do no physical activity right now, start by doing some, then slowly build up to the recommended amount.

For Older Adults

For older adults aged 65 and up, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests the same frequency and intensity of workouts as younger adults with one addition. On at least three days, the WHO advises adding in activity that focuses on balance and strength training, like yoga or dancing. For older adults, the WHO stresses the importance of exercise, which can help “prevent falls or falls-related injuries and declines in bone health and functional ability.” These guidelines are also suggested for any adult, aged 18 and up with chronic conditions or living with a disability.

Remember to consult with your GP beforehand.

Limiting time sitting and lying down

Long periods of sitting can offset the benefits of being physically active, so it’s important to:

  • reduce the time you spend sitting – for example, by organising walking meetings, using a standing desk, or enjoying a walk during your lunch break
  • break up long periods of sitting – for example, by doing lunges or star jumps or walking around when on the phone.

Source: eatingwell.com