The best sports for exercise have been revealed and the message is clear: if you are keen on living longer, you should consider taking up a racquet sport.
Any of squash, badminton or tennis will be fine, with a new study showing that people taking part in those sports seeing their risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease drop by a whopping 56 per cent.
Racquet sports are not only good for your heart, with the risk of death from any cause 47 per cent lower among participants, according to the international study led by researchers at the University of Sydney and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
“It was a very consistent finding that those who played racquet sports are most consistently associated with positive health outcomes,” Associate Professor at Sydney University, Emmanuel Stamatakis, told The New Daily.
Assoc Prof Stamatakis, who was the lead author of the study, added: “The pattern of movement that racquet sports involve, particularly in badminton and squash, and also in tennis, just not as pronounced, is that participants are required to use short bouts of high intensity which is close to maximum.
“After the intense movement, there is a brief interval, and then they start again.
“This isn’t high intensity interval training, but it mimics it, and is very effective in building fitness.
“It is also economic for the time you put in. You can see results fast.”
More than 80,000 British adults aged 30 and over took part in the study. They were all based in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2006.
The study looked at links between death and six sporting disciplines, which were racquet sports, football, running, aerobics, cycling and swimming.
Racquet sports were comfortably on top, with running and football far less beneficial.
The second-best-performing sport was swimming, with participants having a 41 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 28 per cent lower risk of death, while athletics also ranked well.
“One reason these sports are highest is that they engage the whole body,” Assoc Prof Stamatakis said.
“Participants are working so many areas – legs, core, arms – that could play a role.”
Assoc Prof Stamatakis added that the results of the study were not what he was expecting.
“We were very surprised at racquet sports being on top,” he said.
“A close look at our data showed that participants of football were six years younger on average, while runners were four years younger.
“That can make a massive difference – in five years we will have even more of an idea.
“But there is no doubt that sports that mimic high-intensity interval training are good for you.”
Assoc Prof Stamatakis and his fellow researchers now hope the data is utilised and racquet sports are made more accessible.
“First of all, the main premise of the study highlights the importance of doing sport,” he said.
“Some people are physically active by walking or cycling, but sports can really benefit those that have the income, desire and skills to do them.
“Racquet sports can have great benefits long-term but there will be very little benefit if people pick them up for two or three months and drop them.
“It would be great to see involvement in those sports subsidised and access to open spaces and green spaces improved.
“One day we will have a government passionate about physical activity, and in turn sport, and access for participants could mean it is more affordable, there’s more green space around and more facilities.”