Playing Tennis Can Increase Your Lifespan

Beyond The Score / By Lisa Thomas

We have all been told many times that exercise is good for our health.  It now seems that certain sports can have a greater impact on our longevity.

Swimming, racquet sports and aerobics were associated with the best odds of staving off death from any cause, as well as from heart disease and stroke, in a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

So perhaps that New Year’s Resolution to pick up your tennis racket again or get on the court more might be the one to keep this year.

Tennis is one of the most popular racket sports and so it should be with a robust list of benefits.  With the added potential benefit of lowering the risk of cardio vascular events, it may just seal the deal on it being an even better exercise choice for us.

Researchers have done numerous studies over many years that prove the positive effect of regular exercise.  However what they wanted to pinpoint more specifically, was whether exercise really wards off death, either from cardiovascular disease or from other causes. They were also curious whether different sports keep us alive longer than others. It seems that the conclusions were rather telling and most certainly in favor of racket sports.

According to an article in the New York Daily News in November last year, which summarized the study by Dr. Pekka Oja of the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research in Finland, researchers analyzed data from 11 national health surveys for England and Scotland that were taken between 1994 and 2008. The surveyed 80,306 adults were asked what type of physical activity they’d done in the previous four weeks, how much they’d done, and whether it was intense enough to make them breathless and sweaty. The activities included domestic heavy-duty household chores, gardening, and maintenance work; walking; and the six most popular sports, including cycling, swimming, aerobics/gymnastics/dance; running; soccer/rugby; and badminton/tennis/squash.

The survival of each participant, average age 52, was tracked for about nine years. And compared to the people who said they had not broken a sweat doing one of the given physical activities, the risk of death from any cause was cut almost in half for racquet sport players at 47%. And mortality risk was 28% lower for swimmers, 27% lower for aerobics fans and 15% lower for cyclists.

And when it came to heart disease and stroke, racquet sports aced it again with a 56% reduced mortality risk, and swimmers and aerobics fans also saw 41% and 36% less risk, respectively.

According to an article published on the study by CNN, our hearts have to work harder during exercise that engages both the arms and legs. According to Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of the Joan H. Tisch NYU Langone Center for Women’s Healthexercise, it’s important to add some weight-bearing exercises to our routines to maintain bone density. For overall health, she said, “You have to balance aerobic exercise with weight-bearing exercise.”

It becomes pretty motivating with this type of research to make exercise a mainstay in your life.  It also becomes pretty compelling to keep up our tennis games in particular.  Perhaps the goal here is to get out on the court more, make it a priority and when we are there to work a little harder, for our hearts and for our overall well-being.

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  1. But fundamentally, playing tennis is like doing intervals — you’re sprinting and pivoting and giving big, short bursts of energy. In fact, playing tennis for one hour burns up to 600 calories and engages every part of your musculature.

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