Multivariable-adjusted life expectancy gains compared with the sedentary group for different sports were as follows: tennis, 9.7 years; badminton, 6.2 years; soccer, 4.7 years; cycling, 3.7 years; swimming, 3.4 years; jogging, 3.2 years; calisthenics, 3.1 years; and health club activities, 1.5 years.
Various sports are associated with markedly different improvements in life expectancy. Because this is an observational study, it remains uncertain whether this relationship is causal. Interestingly, the leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction were associated with the best longevity—a finding that warrants further investigation.
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People who played tennis, badminton or soccer tended to live longer than those who cycled, swam or jogged.
Sept. 5, 2018
Playing tennis and other sports that are social might add years to your life, according to a new epidemiological study of Danish men and women.
The study found that adults who reported frequently participating in tennis or other racket and team sports lived longer than people who were sedentary. But they also lived longer than people who took part in reliably healthy but often solitary activities such as jogging, swimming and cycling.
The results raise interesting questions about the role that social interactions might play in augmenting the benefits of exercise.
At this point, no one doubts that being physically active improves our health and can extend our longevity.
Multiple, recent epidemiological studies have pinpointed links between regular exercise and longer lives in men and women.
But whether some activities might be better than others for lengthening life spans remains in dispute. One widely publicized 2017 study of more than 80,000 British men and women found that those who played racket sports tended to outlive those who jogged.
His analysis echoes the results of another new examination of activity and mortality, in which Danish scientists used 27 years’ worth of data collected for the continuing Copenhagen City Heart Study. They reported that those Danes who spent one to two and a half hours per week jogging at a “slow or average pace” during the study period had longer life spans than their more sedentary peers and than those who ran at a faster pace.
This decidedly modest amount of exercise led to an increase of, on average, 6.2 years in the life span of male joggers and 5.6 years in women.
“We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity,” Dr. Peter Schnorr, a cardiologist and an author of the study, said in presenting the findings at a clinical meeting organized last month by the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation. “The good news is that you don’t actually need to do that much to reap the benefits.”
“The relationship appears much like alcohol intakes,” he continued. “Mortality is lower in people reporting moderate jogging than in non-joggers or those undertaking extreme levels of exercise.”
There’s further confirmation of that idea in the findings of a large study of exercise habits published last year in The Lancet, which showed that among a group of 416,175 Taiwanese adults, 92 minutes a week of moderate exercise, like walking, gentle jogging or cycling, increased life span by about three years and decreased the risk of mortality from any cause by about 14 percent.
In that study, those who embarked on more ambitious exercise programs did gain additional risk reduction, as seems only fair, but the benefits plateaued rapidly. For each further 15 minutes per day of moderate exercise that someone completed beyond the first 92, his or her mortality risk fell, but by only about another 4 percent.
Whether and at what point more exercise becomes counterproductive remains uncertain. “In general, it appears that exercise, like any therapy, results in a bell-shaped curve in terms of response and benefit,” says Dr. James H. O’Keefe, a cardiologist and lead author of a thought-provoking review article published on Monday in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that examines whether extreme amounts of vigorous exercise, particularly running, can harm the heart.
“To date, the data suggests that walking and light jogging are almost uniformly beneficial for health and do increase life span,” Dr. O’Keefe says. “But with more vigorous or prolonged exercise, the benefits can become questionable.
“I’m a fan of distance running,” he adds. “I run. But after about 45 to 60 minutes a day, you reach a point of diminishing returns, and at some point, you risk toxicity.”
His advice? The study by Dr. Lavie and his colleagues offers excellent guidelines for safe and effective exercise, Dr. O’Keefe says. “Twenty miles a week or less of jogging at a 10- or 11-minute-mile pace can add years to your life span. That’s very good news.” Indeed it is — especially since that routine happens to replicate almost exactly my own weekly exercise regimen.
“I wouldn’t automatically discourage people from doing more if they really want to” and are not experiencing side effects, like extreme fatigue or repeated injuries, Dr. O’Keefe continued. “But the message from the latest data is that the sweet spot for exercise seems to come with less.”
Gretchen Reynolds is the author of “The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer” (Hudson Street Press, 2012).