It’s a known fact that physical activity extends the human lifespan. While most types of exercise benefit longevity, two leisure activities look like they might deliver the best results.
Running and racquet sports can prolong your life
New research shows that older adults who regularly participate in weekly physical activities such as walking, jogging, swimming and playing tennis lower the risk of death from any cause and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The study, led by researchers at the NCI (National Cancer Institute) and came out in JAMA Network Open, featured the importance of regular physical activity for seniors – especially when those activities are enjoyable and sustainable .
According to researchers, the most practical activities include racquet sports – like tennis, squash, or racquetball and jogging, but any recreational activity frequently yielded favourable results.
Although racquet sports and running had the most significant reductions in risks of death, many types of recreational activities are likely to have substantial health benefits. This was according to lead researcher Eleanor Watts, DPhil, MPH, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics .
She added that finding a recreational activity you can enjoy and do consistently is likely more necessary than picking a specific type of activity. At the same time, getting the weekly amount of exercise, (around two and a half to five hours of moderate-intensity exercise or up to a couple of hours of vigorous-intensity training yielded the best results. Even some exercise lowered the risk of death by 5 per cent compared to nothing at all .
“Even small increases may yield substantial benefits,” said Watts. Raising activity levels may lead to further (subtle) reductions in the risk of death for people who are already active.
Activities linked to lower mortality risk
For this, data was collected from 272,550 participants aged 59 to 82, who were included in the NIH–AARP (National Institutes of Health Diet and Health Study) was used. The study was designed to examine the association between diet and cancer .
The participants completed questionnaires on how frequently they participated in seven activities: cycling, jogging or running, swimming, aerobic exercise, racquet sports, golf and walking.
Researchers were able to adjust for other factors (age, sex, race, BMI and alcohol or tobacco use, among others). Consequently, they found that individuals who participated in any activity or combination of activities over a 12-year-period – as long as it was in the recommended weekly range- had a 13 per cent lower risk of all-cause mortality risk than those who weren’t active.
In looking at certain recreational activities, individuals who jogged regularly or were into racquet sports had the most gains. Not only did joggers and tennis players see a reduced risk of all-cause mortality but joggers had a 19 per cent lessened risk of dying from cancer and those who played racquet sports had a 27 per cent decrased risk of cardiovascular death, and
In spite of that, just as more activity may produce better results, there were declining returns as activity levels were raised – meaning the more activity people did, the smaller the benefit.
Physical activity has many health advantages
Primarily, the new research shows that any amount of activity or exercise is better than no exercise, according to Nieca Goldberg MD, a volunteer expert for the American Heart Association and medical director of Atria New York City .
Moving your body, whether walking, running or playing tennis, can lessen the risk of death by helping counteract and manage health conditions, improve mood, and boost energy levels, Dr Goldberg, who wasn’t involved in the new research, said.
To add to these benefits, exercises raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and a kind of fat in the blood (triglycerides because regular aerobic exercise improves the glucose metabolism.
According to Stephen Pickett, MD, a cardiologist at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, Texas, physical activity can lower the risk of death by reducing body fat, blood pressure and inflammation and building stronger bones .
Aerobic exercise boosts weight loss and lowers blood pressure. Weight-bearing exercise can raise muscle mass and enhance bone density, Dr Pickett added. A combination of aerobic activities and weight-bearing training can improve cardiorespiratory fitness and lower the overall risk of mortality.
Supplement your weekly routine with more physical activity
Though the study found discrepancies between kinds of physical activity and their health benefits, the differences were pretty miniscule, recommending that any kind of movement is likely to yield similar results.
Instead of focusing on specific activities, especially if they aren’t comfortable for you and your body, it is suggested that individuals focus on the most enjoyable efforts to stick to a routine.
There is a clear cardiovascular benefit, whether it’s tennis, golf, running, swimming, cycling, or even just walking, added Dr Pickett. “The goal is to have a regimented and intentional exercise plan.”
And for people who are just starting to add physical activity to their routine, it’s essential to start slow and build activity levels.
Participating in group classes or community activities can also make physical activity a more enjoyable and social experience and possibly help people stay connected and motivated. Look for activities that you enjoy and are sustainable long-term since regular exercise is important and getting into a rhythm will help sustainability and longevity.
Beware of overtraining
One factor that is always good to consider when engaging in physical training is overtraining. This happens when people don’t sufficiently recover after intense, repetitive activity, including fatigue, declining performance and potential injury. There are two varieties for too much exercise: overreaching and overtraining.
Overreaching is muscle soreness beyond what you typically experience that occurs when you don’t adequately recover between workouts. Overreaching usually happens after several successive days of strenuous activity and results in feeling run down .
Is overtraining an actual condition?
Although the overtraining syndrome is accumulating recognition in the fitness world, it is sometimes treated with some doubt because:
- There’s no examination to analyse overtraining syndrome definitively.
- There’s no agreement on the observable and measurable factors to identify it. In a current comparison of 22 studies on resistance exercise, the marker that each research team accepted was a “sustained decrease in performance” .
These led some experts to advise renaming it “paradoxical deconditioning syndrome” or “unexplained underperformance syndrome.” Additionally, numerous researchers have asserted that carrying “overtraining” in the name implies that the root cause always lies in the workout program. Nevertheless, it is now believed it results from a collection of factors, many of which are past exercise sessions.
Too much training can be harmful to your health. Follow a program that balances various workouts that complement your fitness level and goals. Rest your muscles post-activity and allow yourself to relax.