Exercise can undoubtedly help you live better, but what about longer? Are there certain activities that are better than others? Yes, and yes. A study published in the BMJ suggests that exercise can reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular-related issues (think heart disease or stroke), and there are certain activities that may be more beneficial than others. [1]

Dr. Pekka Oja, of the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research in Finland, says:

“There is plenty of evidence showing that physical activity is good for our health. But (the World Health Organization) recommends generic physical activity, without specifics. We were interested in how sports could contribute to health and how different sport disciplines could benefit health.”

Oja and his team wanted to expand upon existing studies regarding the benefits of exercise. A great deal of past research has focused on the short-term benefits of exercise on health, or the effects of exercise intensity, but they didn’t show the long-term effects, Oja says.

Ultimately, the researchers wanted to figure out whether exercise delays death, either from cardiovascular disease or other causes. They also wanted to know which types of physical activity might extend life the longest.

So, Oja and his colleagues analyzed data from 11 annual health surveys from England and Scotland conducted between 1994 and 2008, involving 80,306 adults with an average age of 52.

Participants self-reported what type and how much exercise they had done in the last 4 weeks, and whether it had made them breathless and caused them to sweat. Exercise included:

  • Heavy domestic chores and gardening
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics
  • Gymnastics or dance
  • Running
  • Soccer or rugby
  • Badminton, tennis, or squash. [2]

The team tracked the participants’ survival for an average of 9 years, during which time 8,790 participants died from all causes. Of that number, 1,909 died from heart disease or stroke.

When the researchers compared the participants who exercised with those who did not, they found that risk of death during the follow-up period from any cause was:

  • 47% lower among those who played racquet sports
  • 28% lower among swimmers
  • 27% lower among aerobic dancers
  • 15% lower among cyclists [1]
Source: CNN

Racquet sports appeared to be the best type of exercise for preventing death from heart disease and stroke. Racquet sports players were found to have a 56% lower risk of death, while swimmers had a 41% lower risk, and those who participated in aerobics had a 36% lower risk compared to non-exercisers.

Runners and footballers did have a lower rate of death from heart disease. Tim Chico, a consultant cardiologist at professor at Britain’s Sheffield University, who was not involved in the study, said:

“Although this was not ‘statistically significant’, many other studies have found that runners live longer and suffer less heart disease.

I will continue to tell my patients that regular physical activity (including running) is more effective in reducing their risk of heart disease than any drug I can prescribe.” [2]

When it comes to physical activity, any exercise is good exercise. If participants were active, no matter how, they reduced their risk of death.

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] Reuters


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