Time Health: People Who Do Team Sports May Be at an Advantage Over Solitary Exercisers


September 4, 2018
TIME Health
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Experts like to say the best form of exercise is whatever kind you’ll actually do. But a new study finds that people who do team sports may be at an advantage over solitary exercisers.

The social interaction involved in partner and team sports may compound the plentiful benefits of physical activity, adding more years to your life than solo exercise, according to a study published Tuesday in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Tennis, badminton and soccer are all better for longevity than cycling, swimming, jogging or gym exercise, according to the research.

Plenty of research supports a link between social interaction and good health, including recent research published in The Lancet that found team sports are the best physical activity for mental health. Partner sports also tend to be more enjoyable than solitary exercise, O’Keefe says, which can potentially enhance mental health and increase long-term adherence to an exercise routine. Plenty of research has also shown that moderate exercise tends to be as good or better for longevity than vigorous activities such as running, which can take a toll on the body over time.

“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’Keefe, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute.

The study was based on data from about 8,500 adults who were part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study. All of the people were white, and none had a history of heart disease, stroke or cancer, so the findings may be limited to this narrow population. They completed a comprehensive health and lifestyle questionnaire, which included questions about type and frequency of physical activity, and were monitored by the researchers for around 25 years, during which time about 4,500 died.