For most people, turning off Netflix, getting off the couch, and slipping in to their running shoes is a major challenge. But we keep trying to do it, because we all know that regular exercise has major health benefits. The biggest one? Those who participate in physical activity usually live longer than those who are sedentary. Pretty compelling reason to lace up, no?
A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found nothing to contradict that. Exercise increases longevity much more than a sedentary lifestyle. However, how much of a boost does it give you? Does running offer the same life-extending benefits as biking or tennis?
It seems to be highly dependent on the activity. They results aren’t what you would expect.
THE BEST SPORT FOR LONGEVITY
Here are the average life span increases the study determined for a number of different sports:
- Running: + 3.2 years
- Cycling: + 3.7 years
- Soccer: + 5 years
- Badminton: + 6.2 years
- Tennis: + 9.7 years
Conclusion: Forget getting new running shoes. Picking up a racquet can help you gain quite a few extra years.
WHY DO RACKET SPORTS HELP YOU LIVE LONGER?
But why are those participating in racquet sports so much better off in terms of longevity? According to the study authors, “Interestingly, the leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction were associated with the best longevity—a finding that warrants further investigation.”
Could more social interaction in your workouts hold the secret to increasing longevity? It’s very likely. Study after study has shown the benefits of strong relationships and social connectedness. Not only do those with solid social networks generally feel happier and less stressed, but they are also healthier.
“Social support has been linked to lower blood pressure, and a diverse collection of contacts is associated with better immune system functioning,” According to Scientific American. ”The list continues to grow, now encompassing other bodily processes such as wound healing and inflammation.”
In fact, it seems that having a solid social network, both on and off the court, can increase your life span by as much as 50 percent! But bad news, social media “friends” don’t count. We need non-digital connections to reap benefits.
This is especially well demonstrated in Blue Zones: areas of the world where people live the longest and have strong social relationships. But you don’t need to live in a particular area of the world to experience the lifespan-boosting benefits of a strong social network. Just make more time for the good friends in your life!
So, if you love running or cycling, it might be wise to find a social group (or even just a friend) to run and ride with on a weekly basis. Or, just find a great tennis partner. Longevity and physical fitness aren’t about just raising your heart rate—they’re about social connectedness.