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Sports and exercise add quality and longevity to your life

Having good relationships with family and friends, eating healthy foods, and engaging in a favorite hobby adds enjoyment to your days. And a healthy dose of sports and exercise add longevity and quality to your life.

According to a social scientist at Harvard University, for a person to be happy, their lives must include enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose — all of which are components of sports and exercise.

He says:

  1. Enjoyment is to partake in a pleasurable activity that’s paired with people and memory.
  2. To find satisfaction in an accomplishment, humans need to struggle, strive, and sacrifice for their reward.
  3. And a person’s purpose includes having goals and direction.1 Might golf, pickleball, tennis, running, skiing, and other sports fit the criteria?

Read more to learn how exercise and sports can boost your well-being.

Physically fit 

In one 45-year study, participants with active lifestyles had a 15 to 23 percent lower mortality rate than those people in the sedentary group. A person can be a moderate exerciser — 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day — to experience the benefits. To be sure, for exercise to make a positive impact on a person’s health, other lifestyle factors needed to be in place, such as body mass index (BMI), health status, alcohol use, sleep hygiene, and smoking status.2

The CDC recommends that adults age 65 and older get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. Yoga, gardening, and lifting weights are good to add to the mix.3

Exercise can slow down the aging process. After age 30, bodily functions naturally start to decline at a rate of about 1 to 2 percent each year. Those who exercise can reduce that to just a half percent each year. That means a 90-year-old who exercises regularly loses 30 percent of their functional ability, compared to 70 percent for a sedentary person of the same age. Exercise also helps the cells’ recycling process — stopping or reducing the circulation of interleukins and cytokines that damage arteries and increase blood pressure.3

Getting regular exercise also increases muscle strength and the immune system. A study found that recreational cyclists ages 55 to 79 had better immune systems, making them more resilient to Covid and influenza. Another study reported that compared with an active group, a sedentary group showed a decrease in episodic memory, aging them by 10 years.3

So make sure to keep your body moving.

Pick a sport, (almost) any sport

Playing different types of sports is not only a great recreational activity, but it also offers various other benefits, including improving your physical and mental health.

However, not all sports are created equal. Some will give you more years of life — at least that’s what one 25-year-old study found. Sports that are linked to longer longevity include tennis, badminton, soccer, and cycling. And older adults who are part of a sports team or exercise group tend to live longer too.3

So how many extra years can you expect? On average, tennis players extend their lives by 9.7 years, badminton players 6.2 years, soccer players 4.7 years, cyclers 3.7, swimmers 3.4, and joggers 3.2 years. Racquet sports are especially beneficial because they combine balance, cardiovascular endurance, mental engagement, and hand-eye coordination.4

Immediate benefits

Besides the long-term benefits of living longer, there are some more immediate benefits that sports and exercise help with, including:

  • Manage weight — To maintain your figure, you need 150 minutes of physical activity each week (so 30 minutes 5 days a week). Dancing and yard work count.5
  • Reduce risk of chronic diseases, i.e., heart disease and diabetes — Again, 150 minutes each week is needed.5
  • Reduce some cancers such as bladder, breast, colon (proximal and distal), endometrium, esophagus (adenocarcinoma), kidney, lung, and stomach (cardia and non-cardia adenocarcinoma)5
  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Build stronger bones and muscles — You need them to be strong to support your active lifestyle.
  • Aid with flexibility and energy

A mental game

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common ailments these days. So common that 75 to 90 percent of doctor visits are due to stress-related illnesses. Thankfully, increasing your heart rate while having fun can do your brain wonders, reducing your stress and depression. Even just 20 minutes a day is enough to release pain- and stress-inducing endorphins and the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.6

Group sports tend to help participants feel happier than exercising alone. So grab a partner and head to the pickleball court, and take your focus off your negative thoughts and feelings.7

Whatever sport you choose, be sure it’s one you’ll enjoy. That way you’ll be sure to stick with it.

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1. Arthur C. Brooks. The 3 ‘macronutrients of happiness’. April 20, 2024.

2. Pelc, Corrie. Longevity: Is exercise the key to a longer, healthier life? December 17, 2023.

3. Youngblood Gregory, Sara. How physical activity keeps you young: Playing recreational sports for a longer, healthier life. Mayo Clinic Press. April 1, 2024.

4. Brar, Rajpal. The Surprising Workout That Will Add Almost 10 Years to Your Life, According to Science. February 1, 2024.

5. Benefits of Physical Activity. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. August 1, 2023.

6. Bhandari, Smitha MD. Benefits of Sports for Mental Health. February 26, 2024.

7. Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Mayo Clinic. December 23, 2023.

DOFU 4-2024