The majority of us want to live long, healthy lives. Lives that are filled with fun, companionship, laughter and positive energy. We not only want to live many years, but we want them to be enjoyable years at that. The idea behind life extension, or longevity, is extending human lives that are productive and healthy, not sickly and decrepit. Nobody wants that. In addition to nutrition, stress control and healthy relationships, exercise and certain sports also contribute to longevity. Below are five of these sports that almost anyone can try!
Walk, Walk, Walk and Walk Some More
It just might be to your benefit to invest in a FitBit or other pedometer that tracks your steps. According to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), adults who walked 8,000 steps per day had a 51% lower risk of all-cause mortality when compared to adults who only walked half that, at 4,000 steps per day. And if you can push it even further, those who walked 12,000 steps per day had a 65% lower risk of all-cause mortality when compared to the 4,000 steps-per-day group.
The major takeaway from the study was that the length of the walk was what benefited longevity – not the speed of walking. Increasing steps-per-day was also correlated with lower mortality rates associated with cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Lower All-Cause Mortality at the Pool!
Regular swimmers were also examined in the JAMA study and when compared to non-swimmers, they had a 28% lower risk of all-cause mortality. This finding was determined by measuring the participant's metabolic equivalent (MET)-hours/week in order to compare activity levels between one subject and the others. MET values show the intensity of an activity with one MET value being equal to the energy expended at rest. A MET value of five is the equivalent of expending five times the energy and calories as you would while at rest.
The swimmers also showed a 41% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality when compared to non-swimmers.
Catapult Your Lifespan Over the Net!
Another study, with the same author but published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that tennis players demonstrated a 47% lower risk of all-cause mortality when compared to non-tennis players. Not just tennis players, but other racquet sport athletes, such as squash or badminton players demonstrated these benefits. This was a large study that included over 80,000 UK adults.
In a similar study comparing eight different sports to life expectancy, tennis players had the longest life expectancy. They were estimated to live 9.7 years longer than people who did not exercise at all. Badminton was next in line with an estimated 6.3 extra years of life. The reason behind the racquet sports taking the cake could be the added benefit of social interaction and development of relationships. Both tennis and badminton are social sports and cannot be played alone. There is also a certain amount of skill and competition involved, possibly increasing cognitive health. The authors concluded, “Interestingly, the leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction were associated with the best longevity...”.
Sweat Your Way to Health and Longevity
Aerobics. Some people love it, some people hate it. However, it can't be denied that people who engage in gymnastics, dance or aerobic classes at the gym demonstrate a 27% lower risk of all-cause mortality and 36% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality when compared to the non-sweaters.
Not only that, but the effects can be seen at the cellular level. A trial published in the European Heart Journal determined that both endurance training and HIIT training increased telomerase length and activity. Telomeres are the caps on the end of our DNA strands and are indicative of cellular aging. It seems that, the longer our telomeres, the longer our lifespan as they protect our DNA from deterioration. Unfortunately, resistance training did not show such a positive benefit on the telomeres.
Outrun the Grim Reaper with a Smile on Your Face
The last sport we will discuss is running. This is another one that people either love, or hate. If you are a daily runner, however, here's some great news! Runners, when compared to non-runners, show a 27% lower risk of all-cause mortality, a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 23% lower risk of cancer mortality.
You do not even have to run for hours on end to achieve these benefits. The health and longevity benefits were seen in adults who ran just once a week or less for about 50 minutes at a time and at a speed of less than 6 miles an hour. Even if you're super busy and can't find very much time to run, if you can meet this minimum, you'll be good to go!
Moving Your Body is Essential to Life Extension
Getting outside or getting to the gym, moving your body and sweating is always going to benefit your health. However, as you can see, certain sports can really boost your longevity. “It's not only how much and how often, but also what type of exercise you do that seems to make the difference,” Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, MSc, BSc, author of the study, stated.
Another expert, cardiologist James O'Keefe, MD, said, “If we are looking for an exercise to improve longevity, we would do well to get together regularly with at least one other person to do some physical activity that feels like fun.” Exercise and sports do not have to be a grind or something to grumble about – make it fun by competing in racquet sports with a friend or engaging in aerobic classes or running with a buddy. The social aspect is important too and also keeps you accountable. Get out there and have fun while adding years to your life!
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