Want to increase your odds of staving off untimely death? The answer will be yes and according to scientists few sports are better that increasing your odds than others.
Researchers at University of Sydney have suggested that exercise, swimming, racquet sports, and aerobics are the best options when it comes to increasing your odds of staving off death from any cause and from heart disease and stroke, in particular.
Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study looked at 11 nationally representative annual health surveys for England and Scotland, carried out between 1994 and 2008, to quantify the impact of different types of sports and exercise on the odds of beating death. Researchers found that survey respondents who said they had not done a given sport, risk of death from any cause was 47 per cent lower among those who played racquet sports; 28 per cent lower among swimmers; 27 per cent lower among aerobics fans; and 15 per cent lower among cyclists.
There were a total of 80,306 adults who had responded and their average age was 52. The annual surveys asked participants about the type of the physical activity they were performing as well as how much of that activity they had performed in the 4 weeks preceding the survey and whether it had been enough to make them breathless and sweaty.
For the purpose of the surveys, physical activity included heavy duty domestic chores, gardening, and DIY/maintenance; walking; and the six most popular forms of sport/exercise practised–cycling; swimming; aerobics/keep fit/gymnastics/dance; running/jogging; football/rugby; and badminton/tennis/squash.
Less than half of the respondents (just over 44 per cent) met the recommended weekly physical activity quota when they were surveyed. The survival of each participant was tracked for an average of 9 years, during which time 8790 of them died from all causes and 1909 from heart disease/stroke.
Researchers found out that risk of death from heart disease and stroke was 56 per cent lower in people who played racquet sports, with equivalent figures of 41 per cent for swimming and 36 per cent for aerobics, compared with those who did not participate in these sports. Neither cycling, running/jogging, nor football/rugby were associated with a significantly reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, the analysis showed.
The researchers did find a 43 per cent reduced risk of death from all causes and a 45 per cent reduced risk from cardiovascular disease among runners and joggers when compared with those who didn’t run or jog, but this apparent advantage disappeared when all the potentially influential factors were accounted for.
And few of the survey respondents said they played football or rugby regularly, which might also explain the apparent low impact of these activities on death risk in this study, explain the researchers.
For some sports, the higher the intensity, duration, and volume, the greater was the reduction in risk, while for others a U shaped curve emerged, indicating that lower intensity might be better than higher intensity or no participation at all. But due to the small number of deaths involved, these findings should be regarded as preliminary, say the researchers.
Researchers point out that theirs was an observational study and so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, added to which the relatively short recall period, the ‘seasonality’ of certain sports, and the inability to track changes in levels of sports participation throughout the monitoring period, may all have had some bearing on the results, caution the researchers.
Nevertheless, they conclude: “These findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health,” adding that they should help health professionals to bang the drum for getting involved in regular sports/exercise as good way of staying healthy.