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Can playing tennis reduce the risk of heart disease?

A recent study finds racquet sports may reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Woman holding a tennis racket on a clay court.

It’s no secret that exercise is essential for maintaining health and wellbeing, and a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who exercised reduced their risk of death by 28%. But are some types of exercise better for you than others?

Racquet sports: a life saver?

Examining the exercise habits of 80,000 people in the United Kingdom, the study presented good news for those who fancy a hit of tennis, finding that the risk of death from any cause was 47% lower amongst those who played racquet sports. Following racquet sports; swimming, aerobics and cycling also showed a reduced risk.

Most notably, the study revealed racquet sports may be especially beneficial for heart health, with the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke 56% lower amongst those who played – again followed by those engaging in swimming and aerobics. Interestingly, unlike these sports, running and football were not found to offer protective benefits against cardiovascular issues.

And while these findings are certainly interesting and may be music to the ears of tennis players, the study’s authors did note that the data is self reported, and that no firm conclusion can be drawn. As always, further research is needed to fully understand if and why certain sports are providing added health benefits.

More reasons to play tennis

Closer to home, data from the Medibank Better Health Index found that only 1 in 2 Aussies have exercised in the last 12 months, and just 6.9% have played tennis.

Tennis isn’t for everybody of course, and it’s important to find types of exercise you enjoy so you will do them regularly. But if you’re keen to hit the court, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease isn’t the only potential advantage. In fact, there are numerous benefits associated with playing tennis, including:

Maximising heart health

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally. It’s also the primary cause of death in Australia, and kills one Australian every 12 minutes. While exercise evidently plays a crucial role in maintaining heart health, diet can also have a significant impact. See here to find out which foods are ‘heart friendly’.

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