A team of European and Australian researchers looked at large British and Scottish health studies to see if some forms of activity had greater benefits than others. They examined the associations of six different types of exercise with the risk of death over all and death from cardiovascular disease in 80,306 people, 54% of whom were women. Participants, ages 30 to 98, were followed an average of nine years. During that period, 8,790 died, 1,909 from cardiovascular causes.
The researchers determined that racket sports were associated with the lowest (47%) reduction in the risk of dying from any cause, followed by swimming (28%), aerobics (27%), and cycling (15%). The two other activities considered—running and soccer—weren’t associated with a significant decline in risk. They also found significant reductions in cardiovascular death for racket sports (56%), swimming (41%), and aerobics (36%), not for cycling, running, or soccer. (Racket sports, swimming, and aerobics all engage both the upper and lower body in vigorous exercise, which make the heart work harder.) The data indicated that whatever activity participants chose, the more often they exercised, the more their risk of death dropped.
This study, published online Nov. 28, 2016, by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, didn’t look at walking, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. However, it indicates that racket sports, which are less studied, may also have significant benefits. It may be time to pick up a racket and get to the courts.