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Sports that will save your life revealed: New research

November 29, 2016

An international research collaboration, led by University of Sydney, has found that cycling, swimming, aerobics and racquet sports offer life saving benefits compared to running and football.

Published today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study also found that death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) was reduced in people who participated in swimming, racquet sports and aerobics.

The study examined 80,000 adults over 30 years of age to investigate the link between participation in six different 'exercise disciplines' and death, including cycling, swimming, racquet sports, aerobics, football and running. The researchers drew on responses from 11 nationally representative annual health surveys for England and Scotland, carried out between 1994 and 2008.


Compared with study participants who did not participate in the corresponding sport, risk of death from any cause was:
  • 47 per cent lower among those who played racquet sports (tennis, squash, badminton)
  • 28 per cent lower among swimmers
  • 27 per cent lower among those who participated in aerobics
  • 15 per cent lower among cyclists.
Compared with study participants who did not participate in the corresponding sport, risk of death from cardiovascular disease was:
  • 56 per cent lower among those who played racquet sports
  • 41 per cent lower among swimmers
  • 36 per cent lower among those who participated in aerobics.
"Our findings indicate that it's not only how much and how often, but also what type of exercise you do that seems to make the difference," said senior author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the Charles Perkins Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences and School of Public Health at the University of Sydney.

"Participation in 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," he said.

Future research should aim to further strengthen the sport-specific evidence base and understanding of how to enable greater sports participation for people from all age groups and walks of life.

This research was a large scale collaboration between University of Sydney, University of Oxford, UKK Institute (Finland), University of Edinburgh, and four other international universities.

Study details:

The researchers drew on responses from eleven nationally representative baseline health examination surveys carried out in the United Kingdom between 1994 and 2006 which looked at the association between participation in six different sport/exercise disciplines and mortality.

In all, the analysis included 80,306 adults with an average age of 52. In each of the surveys, participants were quizzed about how much physical activity they had done in the preceding 4 weeks, and whether it had been enough to make them breathless and sweaty.

University of Sydney

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