Play More Tennis and Live Longer!

That’s right.  Yet another new study has come out showing the health benefits of being active, this time as it relates to longevity.  The December 2018 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings has a research study titled: Various Leisure-Time Physical Activities Associated with Widely Divergent Life Expectancies: The Copenhagen City Heart Study.  This study following 8577 participants for up to 25 years looking at various forms of physical activities to see which gave the most benefit in adding years to life. 

Playing tennis was the most beneficial extending life expectancy by 9.7 years relative to the sedentary control group.  Seven other leisure activities also increased life expectancy, but not as much! 

Here is the list:

Tennis-        9.7 years

Badminton- 6.2 years

Soccer-         4.7 years

Cycling-       3.7 years

Swimming-  3.4 years

Jogging-       3.2 years

Calisthenics-3.1 years

Health Club Activities- 1.5 years

The study tried to analyze what makes tennis and the other top life extending activities more beneficial than the later activities on the list.   One big difference is that tennis, badminton and soccer tend to be social sports that depend on interactions with others. According to the authors, “Belonging to a group that meets regularly promotes a sense of support, trust, and commonality, which has been shown to contribute to a sense of well-being and improved long term health”.   They also state, “A scientifically rigorous and widely cited meta-analysis on the topic found that social support had a stronger effect on long-term survival than any other factor, including being a nonsmoker, staying lean, or having normal blood pressure”

Another possible reason that tennis, badminton and soccer participants have increase longevity is that these sports require quick interval bursts of full body motions compared to the other sports studied which have more continuous repetitive body motions.  The jury is not out, but according to the study, “a growing body of evidence indicates that short repeated intervals of high intensity exercise appear to be superior to continuous moderate intensity PA (physical activity) for improving health outcomes”. 

It’s a New Year and no better time to make a commitment to being active.  Exercising in a health club may not increase longevity as much as playing tennis or even cycling, but it does have significant benefits which include reducing the risk of many types of cancer, developing Type 2 Diabetes, decreases cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of heart disease and increased the natural protection of cold and flu viruses to name a few.

I’m an avid tennis player so was very happy to see these benefits in longevity.  The moral of this study is that you need to be active to live longer. Of the 8577 participants in this study, 12% reported being sedentary and 66% engaged in at least 1 activity.  The weekly average was almost 7 hours of activity a week.  That’s about 1 hour a day which is the minimum recommended by many different studies.

A study in Lancet in 2016, concludes that it takes 1 hour of exercise a day to reverse the negative mortality effects of sitting 8 hours on the job.  Less than 25% of us meet this minimum requirement. More and more studies are demonstrating the importance of motion.  My favorite mantra to my patients is, “life is motion”.  The Mayo Clinic study is just the latest.  It also give hints on which activities you might want to focus on if you want to live longer. It really doesn’t matter what you do, just do something for at least one hour a day.  It doesn’t have to be continuous.  In fact, the Lancet article suggests you move at least 5 minutes every hour, making the 1 hour of exercise cumulative rather can consecutive!  Just walking is an excellent exercise. The social interaction of walking with a friend probably increases the benefit exponentially!

Before you start any new activity you should have a functional musculoskeletal examination to determine if you are capable.  At Performance Health Center we specialize in getting our patients out of pain and in optimum functional health so they can enjoy pain-free active living!  Wishing all our friends and patients a Healthy, Active and Happy New Year!  For more info email me at: drbradweiss@peformancehealthcenter.com