Raquet sports the best for heart health

Sarah Wiedersehn
(Australian Associated Press)


It’s not only how much and how often you exercise that has life-saving benefits but what type of exercise you do that makes the difference, new research suggests.

An international study, led by researchers at University of Sydney and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found cycling, swimming, aerobics and racquet sports significantly reduced a person’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) when compared to running and football.

Tennis, squash and badminton were the top performing sports, with the risk of death from CVD 56 per cent lower among participants compared to those who didn’t play.

The risk of death from any cause was 47 per cent lower among racquet sports participants.

Lead author, Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney says their results highlight the “nature” of specific sports may have various benefits for health.

“These observations with the existing evidence should support the sport community together with other sectors to design and implement effective health enhancing exercise programs and physical activity in general,” Prof Stamatakis said.

Just over 80,000 adults aged over 30 years and living in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2006 were recruited as part of the study.

At the 10 year follow-up the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and any cause of death was calculated according to their level of participation in different sorts of exercises.

These included cycling, swimming, aerobics, racquet sports, football – including rugby – and running.

“Raquet sports was consistently the winner,” said Prof Stamatakis.

The second best performing sport was swimming. Swimmers had a 41 per cent lower risk of death form CVD.

Swimming was followed by aerobics and then cycling.

It’s important to note it was only an observational study and does not find any cause and effect.

That said, Prof Stamatakis says it’s easy to hypothesise why racquet sports had the greatest association with lower mortality.

“All racquet sports, no matter if its badminton or tennis but in particular squash, involve high-intensity training, bouts of really intense activity. We do know that high-intensity interval training can be very effective,” said Prof Stamatakis.

Another reason could be that they are usually not done alone.

“So there could be some additional benefits from the social interaction element.”

Prof Stamatakis also noted that running and football didn’t peform well in this study because those who participated in those sports were much younger and therefore the researchers could not properly estimate their associations with mortality because there weren’t as many deaths reported.

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