Regularly playing tennis could add nearly 10 years onto your life, according to a study.
The popular racket sport could be better for you than cycling, jogging or swimming – and experts think the social aspect of it plays a big part.
It’s well-known that people who exercise are likely to live longer, and a study of nearly 8,600 people in Copenhagen found social sports may have extra benefits.
Tennis players could live an average of 9.7 years longer than someone who does not exercise, badminton players 6.2 years and footballers almost five years.
But more solitary sports had less of an impact on people’s life expectancy – cyclists live an average of 3.7 years longer, swimmers 3.4 years and joggers just 3.2 years.
The researchers said that while raising the heart rate through exercise is important for longevity, connecting with other people is also vital.
Regularly playing tennis adds an average of 9.7 years onto someone’s life, according to a study of nearly 8,600 people in Denmark, and experts suggest its social elements are the key
The study led by Saint Luke’s Health Center in Kansas City looked at the health and lifestyles of 8,577 people.
All the chosen participants had been part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study – which began in 1975 with adults aged between 20 and 93 – for around 25 years.
Researchers compared people’s lifestyle details, including how often they played each sport, if at all, with national death records.
People who report almost never exercising are the most likely to die young, the study found.
But there are also differences in life expectancy among people who play different sports.
STAYING SOCIAL IN OLD AGE COULD ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE
Joining a book club or church group when your retire may extend your life, research suggested in 2016.
Scientists found maintaining social links might even be more important for health than keeping fit.
Experts tracked a group of 424 recently retired English men and women for six years.
The more social groups the pensioners belonged to, the lower their risk of an early death.
People who stopped attending social clubs they had been members of before retiring became six times more likely to die prematurely as those who kept attending two or more.
And people who joined new clubs were even less likely to die early, according to the results published in the journal BMJ Open.
This is thought to be because social isolation has a profound effect on health – particularly increasing the risk of dementia, depression and cognitive decline.
While cycling was the most popular sport in the study, tennis players lived on average six years longer.
Experts said they cannot tell from this study why tennis adds more years to life than others, but suspected the social interaction could be important.
‘We know from other research that social support provides stress mitigation,’ study author James O’Keefe told the
‘So being with other people, playing and interacting with them, as you do when you play games that require a partner or a team, probably has unique psychological and physiological effects.
‘Raising your heart rate is important, but it looks like connecting with other people is, too.’
He suggests people who cycle or run along could consider finding a partner or group to join them to boost the long-term health effects.
The findings back up a study of 80,000 British adults, published last year in the British Medical Journal, which found people who play racket sports tend to outlive joggers.
Researchers on the new study said the life-extending effects still remained regardless of people’s age, wealth or level of education – suggesting the sports have a direct benefit.
But Dr O’Keefe said it was still possible that people who have enough free time and money to play tennis regularly live longer because they have free time and money, rather than because of the tennis.
The team’s findings were published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.