What is the healthiest sport

Keeping Moving: The Healthiest Sports

Sport is good for you. Studies show that regular exercise prolongs life and has a positive effect on diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and dementia. So far, only a few studies have shown which sports are particularly suitable for this. An international team of researchers made up for this and published the results in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

To this end, they evaluated the annual health surveys in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008. Around 80,000 people with an average age of 52 took part in the surveys. They observed the participants for about nine years. During this time, 8,790 of them died, around 1,900 of them from heart disease or stroke.

Each study participant had to indicate in the questionnaire which activities they had undertaken and whether this activity was strong enough to make them breathless and perspire. In addition to household chores, handicrafts and gardening, the most frequently mentioned activities included cycling, swimming, aerobics and gymnastics as well as dancing, jogging, soccer and kickback sports such as squash, tennis and badminton.

Surprising differences

After the researchers had calculated out factors influencing the result, such as diseases, surprising differences between the sports emerged. Compared to participants who did not make any movement, the fewest died of the active participants who regularly kept themselves fit with a setback sport during the observation period. They had a 47 percent lower risk of death. Swimmers and aerobics fans were able to reduce their risk by 28 and 27 percent respectively.

A similar picture emerged when it came to the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease: people who indulged in a setback sport were able to reduce their risk by 56 percent, swimmers by 41 percent and aerobics fans by 36 percent. The researchers suspect that tennis and swimming also have an additional social effect. Movement here is mostly organized in clubs. As a result, the social network is larger, and the probability of regular exercise into old age is greater. Charlie Foster, co-author of the study: "We think that when doing sports in clubs, not only is movement healthy, but also mental health and social benefits".

For the popular sports cycling, jogging and soccer, there was no such clear benefit in terms of mortality. The researchers explain this with the fact that these sports are often only performed seasonally or irregularly and simply fail in bad weather. The lack of continuity may have a negative impact. Team sports such as football often have the problem: Those who leave the sport at some point due to family, health or because of the job often do not look for a replacement, but instead go from being active to being spectators.

Continue to research

However, the figures may not be sufficient. Study leader Pekka Oja from the UKK Institute in Finland says: "Probably the reason that some sports did not show a greater benefit is that their participants are more likely to be found among the younger ones". You have to follow this for another five to ten years in order to calculate the death rate more precisely. Other studies have also shown reduced mortality rates for joggers. Another study by Oja's research team had also shown that soccer and jogging can strengthen the cardiovascular system.

Sylvia Titze from the Institute for Sports Medicine at the University of Graz is co-author: "One of the aims of this study was to show that not only exercise in general, but the practice of sports has a positive effect on health". If in sports such as soccer or jogging the health effects were not significant, it does not mean that there are no health effects. "If someone enjoys playing football, then from a health point of view it is better to keep playing football than to stop and become a spectator".

The study is of limited informative value because it is an observational study, says prevention physician Norbert Bachl from the Center for Sports Science at the University of Vienna. Cause and effect are not clearly proven. "However, the main message remains that a wide variety of sports can help reduce the risk of death." Everyone could use this knowledge for themselves. (Andreas Grote, March 11, 2017)