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Racquet sports best to stave off death

Wednesday 30 Nov 2016 6:24 p.m.

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If you want to keep fit, it seems racquet sports could be better for your health than running or rugby.

We all know we need regular exercise to stay healthy, but it seems it's not only how much and how often, but also what type of exercise you do that makes a difference.

New research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reveals, racquet sports - badminton, tennis and squash - have the best odds of staving off death, in particular heart disease and stroke.

Auckland Badminton Association general manager John McGregor thinks badminton's so good for you because people play regularly and for a number of years.

"Badminton's not a seasonal sport, you can play badminton at any time," says Mr McGregor,

"It's all indoor and it just allows people to play for longer and more often as much as they want to play."

He also says anyone can play at any age.

"I've played badminton since I was seven, and now I'm 73, it keeps me fit and well," said one player.

The University of Sydney study looked at the six most popular forms of sport and exercise and found risk of death was:

  • 47 percent lower for those who played racquet sports
  • 28 percent lower among swimmers
  • 27 percent lower for those who did aerobics
  • 15 percent lower for cyclists

Compared with study participants who did not participate in the corresponding sport, risk of death from cardiovascular disease was:

  • 56 percent lower among those who played racquet sports
  • 41 percent lower among swimmers
  • 36 percent lower among those who participated in aerobics

But no such benefits were found for runners or those who played football or rugby.

So what makes swimming so good?

"It's ageless," says swimmer and triathlete Rick Wells,

"It's non impacting on your bones, you can go as hard or as easy as you like.  You do 50 metres of butterfly you'll feel it or you can float down and just go with the current. It's non weight-baring, it's a great sport."

It's an observational study so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. 

Around 80,000 people were analysed, including if and how they died and what sports they played, but what they didn't study was why some sports emerged as being more beneficial than others.

Nevertheless, they conclude the findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health.


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