Diabetes Forecast

Tennis, Swimming, and Dancing Linked to Longer Life

By Matt McMillen , ,

Photo Credit: Nosnibor137/BigStock

What to Know

Exercise improves heart health, lowers blood glucose levels, and improve insulin sensitivity—all great benefits for someone with diabetes. In fact, getting at least the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week can add years to your life. While exercise of all kinds contributes to better health, researchers wanted to determine which types were linked to the lowest odds of an early death as well as to the lowest risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

The Study

Researchers analyzed health survey data from 80,306 English and Scottish adults, whose average age was 52. The surveys, done between 1994 and 2008, covered the type, intensity, and amount of exercise that each adult had done in the previous month. The survey focused on the most popular sports and exercises in England and Scotland: swimming, cycling, aerobics, soccer, running, and racquet sports such as tennis. The researchers then followed the participants’ health for an average of nine years to determine how many died and of what causes.

The Results

People who played racquet sports such as tennis and badminton fared the best. They lowered their risk of an early death by 47 percent and their chances of a fatal heart attack or stroke by 56 percent. Swimming reduced the odds of dying early by 28 percent and the odds of dying from a heart attack or stroke by 41 percent. Coming in at a close third were dancing for fitness (think Zumba) and other aerobic exercises, with a 27 percent reduction in the risk of early death and a 36 percent lower chance of death from heart attack or stroke.


Tennis, swimming, and aerobics appear to provide a greater degree of protection against an early death than the other sports studied. But if none of those sports appeal to you, don’t despair. Any exercise you do will provide significant benefits compared to inactivity. But note: While this study showed a link between particular sports and the risk of dying early, it did not determine whether any sport actually caused the drop in mortality risk. More research needs to be done to determine whether specific sports offer unique protection against early death and death from heart attack and stroke.

Associations of specific types of sports and exercise with all-cause and cardiovascular-disease mortality: a cohort study of 80,306 British adults.” Pekka Oja, Paul Kelly, Zeljko Pedisic, Sylvia Titze, Adrian Bauman, Charlie Foster, Mark Hamer, Melvyn Hillsdon, Emmanuel Stamatakis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, May 2017; 51: 812–817.

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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