The 3 sports that may help you live longer (and the ones that might not)

Scientist say that while all physical activity is good, only three sports will actually help you live longer. Getty Images

Doctors agree that regular exercise and a healthy diet improves quality and longevity of life. But is all exercise created equal?

While some opt to exercise in a gym, others prefer organized sports like soccer and hockey. However, if you want to get the most out of exercising and live longer, scientists say there are three sports you should stick to.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, racquet sports (like tennis or racquet ball), swimming and aerobics are the sports that may help keep death at bay, especially from causes like heart disease and stroke.

READ MORE: Could a simple blood test predict whether you’ll be alive in 5 years?

The study looked at data from over 80,000 people in England and Scotland with an average age of 52. They were given yearly questionnaires between 1994 and 2008 about the type of physical activity they had done and for how long in the preceding four weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

Less than half of those surveyed (44 per cent) met the recommended weekly physical activity quota.

The survival of each participant was followed for an average of nine years. During that time, 8,790 people died from a variety of causes and 1,909 died from heart disease or a stroke.

Those who participated in racquet sports, swimming and aerobics were found to have the lowest risk of dying during the study’s run.

“These findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health,” the study says. “These new observations with other existing evidence should support the clinicians to consider sports participation as an effective form of health-enhancing physical activity.”

The six most popular forms of exercise among the participants were cycling, swimming, aerobics, fit/gymnastics/dance, running/jogging, football/rugby and badminton/squash/tennis.

Story continues below advertisement

The chance of death from any cause was 47 per cent lower among racquet sport players, 28 per cent lower among swimmers and 27 per cent among aerobics.

Among cyclists, the chance of death was 15 per cent lower while no associations were seen among runners and joggers or football and rugby players.

As for death associated with heart disease and stroke, the risk was 56 per cent lower for those playing racquet sports, 41 per cent lower for swimmers and 36 per cent lower for aerobics.

READ MORE: Read these 3 conditions in your 40s to live longer, reduce heart failure risk

Neither running, jogging, cycling, football or rugby proved to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

According to Solutions Research Group Consultants Inc., the top five sports and activities in Canada among youth ages three to 17 are swimming, soccer, dance, hockey and skating.

However, scientists at Brown University released a study last year looking at how exercise affects different types of people.

Researchers at Brown concluded that cardio exercise was not universally effective across different outcomes and subgroups of participating patients.

“Even though exercise may benefit most people under most circumstances, it does not mean that the same exercise program or therapy should be prescribed to everyone,” says Dr. Simin Liu, a Brown professor of epidemiology and of medicine.

Story continues below advertisement

Liu says if a subgroup of people cannot benefit from exercise, other alternatives should be considered. That decision should be made between a doctor and their patient.

Sponsored content