Daily exercise is essential if you want to stay healthy and live a long life. You probably knew that. But you may not know that racket sports in particular can help you live longer.
Keep reading for the full scoop. . .
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine1 looked at the link between six different types of exercise and the risk of early death. They found that adults who participated in racket sports lived longer than those who participated in solitary exercises such as jogging, swimming or cycling.
Researchers followed a vast group — 80,306 people, ranging in age from 30 to 98. Interesting fact, the scientists found that those who played racket sports were 47 percent less likely to die of any cause and 56 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
That’s an amazing difference, especially when you consider that running, swimming and cycling are pretty darn healthy.
Having Fun with Others
If you’re one of my long-time readers, you might guess one of the theories why racket sports confer such a unique benefit: The social aspect. It’s well known that people who have an active, rewarding social life are at less risk for a great many diseases.
“For both mental and physical well-being and longevity, we’re understanding that our social connections are probably the single most important feature of living a long, healthy, happy life,” says study co-author Dr. James O’Keefe2.
“If you’re interested in exercising for health and longevity and well-being, perhaps the most important feature of your exercise regime is that it should involve a playdate.”
This is all great news, but if you’re like me, you may feel like tennis is a young person’s game. Fortunately, there’s a new racket sport that is a hybrid of tennis, ping pong and badminton.
Here’s what I learned about this popular new game ….
Tennis too Tough? Try Pickleball!
Why is pickleball one of the fastest-growing racket sports among older adults? Because it’s fun, easy to learn, and less physically demanding.
The light pickleball paddle is a cross between a ping pong paddle and a tennis racket, and the plastic pickleball is lighter than a tennis ball so it travels a lot slower, making it easier to see and hit.
That sounds like something I might be able to handle.
At 20 x 44 feet, the court is much smaller than a tennis court, so you’ll have less ground to cover. This makes it easier on your joints. Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles.
According to the USA Pickleball Association, their sport is a great alternative to tennis as we get older or for those of us nursing injuries from other sports. The association calls the game a “highly contagious, progressive and incurable disease,” and estimates that between 40 and 50 thousand people worldwide are currently infected.
Look around and you’ll find pickleball opportunities at local YMCAs, gyms and senior community centers. And there’s an added benefit: Learning anything new is good for your brain and reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s my takeaway from the British study …
Whether you are swinging a racket, pedaling a bike or walking around the park, it’s always more fun to do it with a partner. This is especially important as we grow older because the last thing you want to do is become isolated.
Research proves that frequent social contact is essential for a long and healthy life. To cite just one example, a 2012 study3 in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that loneliness was associated with functional decline and a higher risk of death among adults 60 and older.
So, if racket sports aren’t your thing, don’t worry. Just make sure you integrate social contact and exercise into each and every day. It’s fun — and healthy, too!