Physical exercise is well known to benefit cardiovascular health. And if you are going to exercise, why not play sport? Not only can it help to tick your exercise box, but it is also appeals to our competitive natures, and can be tremendous fun!
But what exactly are the benefits of sport to heart health? And of all the major sports, which are the best to heart health? In this blog, we find out…
Intensely good for you
It is the intensity of sport as a way of exercising which has been found to have a more significant impact on our health than less vigorous activities. The proven benefits of sport for heart health are numerous. First of all, sport can be a great way to lose weight, and maintain a healthy weight. This, in turn, can help to optimise our heart health, because being overweight exerts stress on the heart.
Then there is the ‘beta-blocker’ effect which the intense exercise of sport can offer, concurrently lowering the blood pressure and slowing the heart rate. By addressing high blood pressure, sport can lower the risk of heart disease. And we shouldn’t forget the ability of sport to strengthen the muscles, easing the strain on the heart, as well as improve blood flow and lower cholesterol.
Which sport does the heart love most?
A study which was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine analysed the sporting habits and health of over 80,000 adults across six common sports. So which sport appeared to be the best for the heart? While swimming was found to be the most popular sport among the adults quizzed – who had an average age of 52 – researchers discovered that it did not have the most significant health impact.
The winner was racquet sports – it was found that risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 56 per cent lower for players of sports such as tennis, badminton and squash. So next time you see recent Wimbledon finalist Roger Federer bounding around the court aged well into his thirties, remember that there is no age limit on picking up a racquet and playing!