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Playing Tennis Linked to Longer Life

<i>Playing tennis may lower risk of death by heart disease and stroke.
Playing tennis may lower risk of death by heart disease and stroke.
February 2017 -- Is tennis the true fountain of youth? New research indicates that playing tennis could be associated with longer life.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently released a study that finds that in terms of exercise, swimming, racquet sports and aerobics seem to be associated with the best odds of staving off death from any cause, and from heart disease and stroke in particular.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from 11 national annual health surveys for England and Scotland from 1994 to 2008. The analysis included 80,306 adults with an average age of 52. In each of the surveys, participants were quizzed about what type and how much physical activity they had done in the preceding four weeks, and whether it had been enough to make them breathless and sweaty. Physical activity included heavy-duty domestic chores, gardening and do-it-yourself and maintenance activities; walking; and the six most popular sports and exercises: cycling, swimming, aerobics/gymnastics/dance, running/jogging, soccer/rugby and badminton/tennis/squash.

The survival of each participant was tracked for an average of nine years. Overall, compared with survey respondents who had not participated in any of the activities, the risk of death from any cause was 47 percent lower among those who played racquet sports, 28 percent lower among swimmers, 27 percent lower among aerobics fans and 15 percent lower among cyclists. Surprisingly, no such associations were seen for runners and joggers or those who play soccer or rugby.

When researchers looked at risk of death from heart disease and stroke, they found that playing racquet sports was associated with a 56 percent lower risk, with equivalent figures of 41 percent for swimming and 36 percent for aerobics, compared with those who did not participate in these sports. Neither cycling, running/jogging, nor soccer/rugby were associated with a significantly reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, the analysis showed.

“This article continues to reinforce the plethora of research supporting tennis as one of the most beneficial activities to maintain physiological and psychological health,” said Jack ­Groppel, Ph.D., Cofounder, Johnson & Johnson Human Performance ­Institute.

Researchers caution that this is an observational study and no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. In addition, the relatively short recall period, the seasonality of certain sports, and the inability to track changes in levels of sports participation throughout the monitoring period may all have had some bearing on the results.

Nevertheless, they conclude that “these findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health.”

Armed with research such as this, tennis-teaching professionals can continue to make people aware of the health and fitness benefits of playing tennis on a regular basis. 
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