Get Moving for a Longer (and Happier) Life
At this point, it’s certainly common knowledge to the readers of fit815 that moving more and eating better can have dramatic effects on your health and longevity. But a current study published this summer highlights the impact that specific types of exercise can have on one’s longevity.
Researchers culled data collected from thousands of participants spanning multiple decades from the Copenhagen City Heart Study. This study collected data from the same participants regarding their lifestyles and how often they engaged in sports common in Denmark, including cycling, running, swimming, tennis, soccer, and badminton (who knew the Danes were into badminton?).
The researchers then narrowed their focus to 8,600 participants who were part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study for more than 25 years. They then filtered their results to see who had already passed away and who was still alive, and then compared the activities engaged in and life spans.
The most unsurprising finding was that the participants who reported low activity levels were statistically more likely to have died in the ensuing decades. However, things got interesting when the researchers dug a little deeper into who was still alive and which fitness activities they engaged in most regularly.
Both cycling and running added more than three years to the participants’ lifespans. Soccer added nearly five years. Badminton added approximately six years. But the clear winner, by a landslide, was tennis, with an amazing near-decade of added longevity at 9.7 years!
Why and how some sports might add more years to people’s lives than others is impossible to know, but physicians who reviewed the study believe that it boils down to socialization. The social aspect of racket sports and other team sports appears to be a common thread between the participants in the Copenhagen study.
There has been a lot of research lately tying socialization to aging well. It is unclear whether social isolation is a symptom or cause of dementia, but evidence is growing that social isolation and the ensuing loneliness is a risk factor for dementia. It also increases the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and depression.
This is a critical point when we look to improving the utilization rate of seniors in fitness activities. Keeping moving, modest strength training, and maintaining flexibility all impact quality of life as we age. Secondarily, the social aspect of leaving the home and going to the health club to exercise with groups provides the social interaction we require to age well.
When thinking of your fitness, ask yourself what the balance is between solo activities (running, cycling, elliptical) and group activities (team sports, fitness classes, personal training). Solo activities certainly have their place, in terms of clearing out heads, decompression, meditation, etc. But humans are indeed social creatures and the statistics from the Copenhagen City Heart Study make clear that there are substantial benefits to working out with others. •