3 Best Sports For Longevity

Being Active As You Get Older Is The Best Way To Stay Young

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For most people, turning off Netflix, getting off the couch, and slipping into their running shoes is a major challenge. But we keep trying to do it, because we all know that regular exercise has major health benefits. The biggest one? Those who participate in physical activity usually live longer than those who are sedentary. Pretty compelling reason to lace up, no?

In fact, insufficient physical activity is estimated to cause more than 5 million premature deaths a year. To reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and a number of other chronic diseases, the WHO recommends adults and older people to engage in physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week.

However, what type of exercise you do is just as important as the amount that you get in. So we’ve gathered up some of the best sports for longevity. From joint protection to low impact to high cardio here is a list of some sports that can help you live longer. 

Swimming For Longevity 

Those swim lessons you took as a kid might be one of the best workouts of your life. As it turns out, swimming offers a variety of benefits to your health that five-year-old you may not have noticed but 50-year-old you definitely will. 

A long-term study at Indiana University found that swimmers over the age of 35 who swam roughly 3,200 to 4,500 meters 3-5 times a week, postponed the aging process. And not just for a few years but for decades. According to traditional age markers, like muscle mass, blood pressure and lung functions.

But you don’t have to be a Masters Swimmer to benefit from swimming. In fact, just a few laps with a kick-board can do you good. 

Health Benefits Of Water-Based Exercises

Water-based exercise brings a number of advantages, as compared to land-based exercise. As it’s an environment that offers reduced weight-bearing stress, higher humidity levels, decreased heat load and a greater margin of therapeutic safety. Swimming is extremely well placed to safely and effectively meets the needs of a wide range of individuals, in both treatment and prevention of physical health issues.

Exercise in water gives your body more support than exercise on land. Swimming has less impact on your joints and bones than land-based workouts. Water is 800x denser than air so the benefit of this added resistance is felt when swimming laps. 

However, unlike a lot of resistance training, it’s really easy on your joints. Swimming is a form of exercise that’s suitable for people of all ages because it’s so easy on the joints. The water supports the body so only a fraction of your weight has to be supported by your limbs. It also favors smooth circular movements rather than quick jerky movements that can strain joints.

Because swimming is low impact, it’s something you can do every single day. As a result, swimming is the best form of physical exercise that promotes good health. Below are 4 specific health benefits of swimming.

#1: Swimming can help you lose weight & keep it off.

#2: Swimming for half an hour can burn as much as 250 calories.

#3: Since water is about 800 times denser than air, your body has to work harder in the pool, even though it might not feel like it is.

#4: Gliding through the water can be a glorious feeling.

Cycling For Longevity

Turns out the fountain of youth might not be fountain but in fact a bike. Scientists from the University of Valencia looked at 834 cyclists who rode the Tour de France between 1930 and 1964. In 2007, the researchers compared the percentage of survivors at each age to that of the general population in the country the cyclists came from. They found that on average, the Tour de France riders lived to 81.5 years, as opposed to 73.5 years in the general population.

Health Benefits Of Cycling

In two further studies, several of the same scientific researchers altered their approach to examining the effects of cycling into old age on health, more specifically examining T cells and muscles, which play a key role in boosting the immune system.

In an updated study published in the Anatomical Society’s Aging Cell journal, researchers in London compared 125 adults aged 55 to 79 who had continued cycling into old age and had maintained a relatively high level of exercise through adulthood with “75 age‐matched older adults and 55 young adults not involved in regular exercise.”

What did they find? While the results did show that the folks who continued cycling into old age did not protect against all signs of aging in regard to the immune system, they did find the active cyclists produced the same levels of T cells as younger adults in their 20s and 30s. Thus, cycling into old age has shown success in keeping the immune system young.

It’s also perfect for people who don’t enjoy higher-impact cardio activities, like running. Spinning is a low-impact exercise that places less stress on your joints, which makes it ideal for older adults with knee or hip issues or those recovering from orthopedic injuries.

Rowing For Longevity 

An indoor rower  (or an erg, as the rowing nerds say) is an exercise machine that simulates the sport of rowing (or “crew”, again as the rowing nerds say). Beyond the confusing names and the intimidating-looking machine, indoor rowing is an all-around excellent exercise. First of all, it’s a highly effective full-body exercise that’s also a low-impact. But it’s not easy, so don’t confuse it with going merrily down the stream.

From legs to the core to arms, rowing puts them all to the test. The indoor rowing machine requires effort from both your upper and lower body. With a lot of major muscle groups in use, this is a tough full-body workout.

Health Benefits Of Rowing

To give you specific examples, rowers exercise the rhomboids in the shoulders, trapezius in the upper back, and lats in the mid to lower back. This can lead to a reduction in back pain and improved posture as a result of stronger back and shoulders.

But you’ve got to grip the bar or handle with your hands – and that means the bicepsforearmswrists, and hands all are also in on the action. Rowing isn’t an extreme grip exercise – but it’s something that will help you maintain a minimum of grip strength. The pectorals (chest) and abdominals are also used, which helps you develop a stronger core.

For the lower-body – which includes the biggest muscles in the body – the quadriceps in the upper front of the thighs, calves, and glutes (buttocks) are involved extensively. But you can pace yourself, such that this exercise will work for anyone – from novice to athlete.

When we said full-body we weren’t kidding. There’s just no comparison to cardio exercise that only involves the lower body, such as biking, the elliptical machine, or running on a treadmill. 

Rowing is also an absolute calorie killer. Because it involves your whole body you can burn a ton of calories – up to 377 in a 30-minute workout. This means efficiency, which means spending less time working out. As you begin to get older this can be helpful to not strain yourself over long periods of time, but rather strong injury-free bursts. 

Another big plus is that indoor rowing involves no jarring impacts on the joints and no requirement for extreme mobility. For these reasons, this is an excellent cardiovascular and endurance workout for midlifers. It’s also great for people who aren’t quite ready for weight-bearing exercise. And while it can cause some low back strain – using the right form can prevent this.

So, are you jumping in the water, getting on your spinning shoes or hopping on the rowing machine for your next workout?

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Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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