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Sports Participation and Longevity

What’s the best type of physical activity to help your clients reach their golden years? Researchers from the UKK Institute in Finland delved into that question in a recent report.

The report included survey responses from 80,306 British adults with an average age of 52. They were asked about the types of activities they had participated in during the previous 4 weeks and whether those activities were intense enough to cause breathlessness. People reported engaging in activities like gardening, chores, swimming, cycling, running, football or rugby, racquet sports and more. The study then tracked respondents for an average of 9 years. Throughout the intervention, 8,790 participants died; heart disease and stroke were responsible for 1,909 of the deaths. Here’s more of what the researchers learned:

  • About 44% of respondents completed the recommended amount of weekly physical activity.
  • Racquet sports were linked with the greatest survival rate, followed by swimming, aerobics and cycling.
  • There were no significant associations between longevity and running, cycling or football.
  • Decreases in cardiovascular–disease mortality were significantly associated with swimming, racquet sports and aerobics, but not with cycling, running or football.
  • Intensity seemed to play a role in decreased mortality for some sports, but not others.

“These findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health,” concluded the study’s authors. “Future research should aim to further strengthen the sport-specific epidemiological evidence base and understanding of how to promote greater sports participation.”

This report was published in British Journal of Sports Medicine (2016; doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096822).

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