A Study on the Impact of Various Sports on Risk of Death
Not too long ago, you may have seen a bunch of articles in tennis magazines and on-line about how playing tennis can help you to live longer. I kept seeing them pop up in my email and on some of the websites I follow. I tracked down the article that all of the sources were so excited about to see if there really was anything there worth knowing. Can tennis really help me live longer? Turns out that not only can tennis reduce my risk of death, it can reduce it in a hugely significant way.
The article that everyone was so excited about came out in a recent issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The title of the article is Associations of specific types of sports and exercise with all-cause and cardiovascular-disease mortality: a cohort study of 80 306 British adults and this article is all about a study done by a number of researchers from the U.K., Europe and Australia.
The Sports That Were Studied (Including Tennis)
The aim of the study was the see what impact, if any, participation in six popular sports would have on the risk of death from all causes and, specifically, from cardiovascular disease. The researchers analyzed data from 11 national annual health surveys conducted between 1994 and 2008. The study included 80,306 adults from England and Scotland with an average age of 52. Participants were quizzed about what type and how much physical activity they had done in the preceding four weeks and how vigorous it was. The physical activity they were asked about included domestic chores, walking and a number of popular exercises: cycling, swimming, aerobics and dance, running and jogging, soccer and rugby and, of course, the racquet sports of tennis, squash and badminton. Participants were tracked for about nine years.
The Results – Tennis is the Best Sport for Reducing Your Risk of Death!
So what were the results of this study? Let me tell you that I actually did read this article and there is quite a lot of statistical analysis and scientific jargon that I am not even going to attempt to explain to you. But for us tennis players, and I'm going to focus on tennis here since that's what we care about, the bottom line is this. The sport that had the biggest impact on reducing the risk of death for the study participants was the racquet sports like tennis. The study demonstrated that the risk of death from any cause was 47 percent lower among those who played racquet sports. And the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, like heart disease and stroke, was 56 percent lower for racquet sports players. Wow!
Some of the other sports the study looked at also showed big impacts on decreasing the risk of death. Swimmers, for example, had a 28 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 41 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Those who participated in aerobics had a 27 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 36 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
But guess what? Running or jogging did not reduce the risk of death either overall or for cardiovascular disease. And biking did nothing to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The study thus showed that while participating in sports and exercise can have a huge impact on your health and reducing your risk of death, not all sports and exercises are equal.
The Conclusion of the Study – More Research Needed
Here's the specific conclusion of the study: “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.”
But Why Tennis?
Now you may be wondering, like me, why are racquet sports so great? More specifically, why is that tennis can have such a huge impact on reducing my risk of death? And why are sports like running, jogging, soccer and rugby not so great? While the study doesn't tell us that, I have my own thoughts on this. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that tennis is not just a physical sport, it's also very mental. So you have to keep yourself in good physical shape to play this game and you have to stay on-your-toes mentally too.
The Match Where We Almost Get Beaten By Two Older Ladies
Here's my example of just what I mean. A few weeks ago, I played a doubles match against two women who were both older than me and my partner. While we won this match, it was not at all easy. We had to work hard against these two ladies who played very, very smart tennis. We could outhit them and run down any lob they sent up, but we still struggled because they were just so dang smart! And we had to work particularly hard against the stronger of the two ladies who was a phenomenal player. Any time we gave her an easy ball, she put it in exactly the right place with the precise amount of touch for an amazing winner. Over and over, we had to keep saying to each other, “Stop giving the ball to Misako!” That was her name – Misako.
So, like I said, we won that match, barely, and we were talking to our opponents afterwards because they were very nice and we were just making chit-chat, and telling them how much we enjoyed playing them, etc. Well, it turns out that Misako was not only just five feet tall – shorter than me and much shorter than my six foot tall partner – but she was also 72 years-old. We were stunned! We could not believe this little lady could possibly be that old because she had literally run us ragged and made us pull out everything we had strategy-wise for that win.
It wasn't that she was overpowering us on court, she was just outsmarting us again and again. And I think having this mental strength, where you can play incredibly challenging tennis even when you're 72 years-old, even against much younger players, is part of what makes tennis such a beneficial sport as far as reducing our risk of death.
For You and Me – Play More Tennis!
So what does this study mean for you and me? Well, Number 1, those statistics should make you want to play even more tennis than you are already. And for the rest of your life. Number 2, this study should make you want to get out there and convince every member of your family, all of your relatives and friends, and anyone whose health you care about that they should be playing tennis too!
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE
You can find the abstract for the British Journal of Sports Medicine article here:
- Associations of specific types of sports and exercise with all-cause and cardiovascular-disease mortality: a cohort study of 80 306 British adults.
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