Those who play racket sports like tennis, badminton and squash seem to have the best odds for keeping death due to cardiovascular disease at bay, according to a new study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Other sports leading the pack were swimming, cycling, and aerobics, according to the International Business Times. Sports that did not make the cut were football, rugby, and running.
The study was conducted in both England and Scotland over a span of 14 years, where the health of 80,306 adults was followed and their survival monitored for an average of nine years. The average age of participants was 52. According to the New York Daily News, each participant was regularly asked about their physical activity, including what kind and whether or not they had broken a sweat or become breathless during the activity. Other activities on the list that people performed included gardening and household chores and maintenance.
Compared to those who did not regularly break a sweat, those who participated in racket sports like tennis and badminton had a risk of death that was 47 percent lower in general. For diseases like a heart attack or stroke, that risk of death was 56 percent lower, according to The Huffington Post.
Meanwhile, those who swam or did aerobics like dance and gymnastics had a 41 percent lower risk of death from a heart attack or stroke than those who never broke a sweat, according to the NY Daily News. A cardiologist was reported as explaining that these sports combine strength training with aerobic exercise (the ones that get your heart pumping and your lungs going), which he said are essential for overall health, as one builds endurance while the other strengthens muscles.
During the course of the study, 8,690 participants died from a number of causes. 1,909 of these died from either stroke or heart attacks, says The Huffington Post.
The results of the study suggest that some sports are more effective than others for promoting good health, especially cardiovascular health, but one cardiologist warns not to discount other physical activities and their benefits, according to The Huffington Post. Instead, he maintains that any regular exercise will lower your risk for premature death from illnesses like heart disease.
Running, long seen as a sport that greatly reduces cardiovascular disease risks, was surprisingly not among the top athletic activities in the outcome of the study. However, one of the coauthors of the study, a doctor from UKK Institute in Finland, explains why that might be. According to the NY Daily News, he said that running participants in the study were overall younger than participants in other sports. These runners would need to be followed up on for another five or 10 years in order to best determine how running stacks up to the top activities of racket sports, swimming, and aerobics.
It is important to note that the British Journal of Sports Medicine’s study was observational only, so the conclusions drawn from cause and effects are not firm, notes the NY Daily News.