The positive impact exercise has on longevity is unequivocal. Numerous studies show that doing something is better than nothing but there is a lack of data on the sports that confer the greatest benefits. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine sought to address this.
Researchers examined the associations of six different types of sport/exercise with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality risk in a large Scottish and English population-based pool.
Cardiovascular disease – a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels – is one of the leading causes of death in the world.
To gather their findings, the researchers analysed data on 80, 306 individuals.
So, what did they find out?
Significant reductions in all-cause mortality were observed for participation in cycling, swimming, racquet sports and aerobics.
No significant associations were found for participation in football and running.
A significant reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality was observed for participation in swimming, racquet sports and aerobics, but there were no significant associations for cycling, running and football.
In their concluding remarks, the researchers said: “These findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health.
“Future research should aim to further strengthen the sport-specific epidemiological evidence base and understanding of how to promote greater sports participation.”
The general benefits of exercise
People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.
Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities,” advises the NHS.
As the health body explains, the easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of everyday life, like walking or cycling instead of using the car to get around.
“However, the more you do, the better, and taking part in activities such as sports and exercise will make you even healthier,” it adds.
Other key tips for longevity
To maximise the longevity benefits of exercise, you should also eat a healthy, balanced diet.
A healthy, balanced diet generally means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to:
- Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- Base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
- Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
- Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
- Drink plenty of fluids (at least six to eight glasses a day).
It is worth noting that eating too much or too little of any of the major food groups can be bad for your health.
According to Bupa, different people need different amounts, depending on age, gender, and level of activity.
“If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll need to be particularly careful about portion control,” warns the health body.
Ask your GP or a dietitian if you’re unsure about your portion sizes, it adds.