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September 18, 2023

Want to Live Longer? Play Tennis

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Want to Live Longer? Play Tennis

Do you want to live longer? Believe it or not, but not everyone wants to live longer, but I suspect you do since you came to this website. So if one of your goals is to live longer then you may want to start playing tennis. Tennis may be the best sport to live longer and healthier.

A study out of Denmark published in 2018 found that Danes that played tennis lived 9.7 years longer than their peers who were sedentary. There were other leisure activities that the study looked at as well. Basically, any level of physical activity increases life expectancy something most of us would not find surprising. This was a study on 8,577 people in Denmark who were followed for 25 years for all-cause mortality.

Physical Activities and Increase in Life Expectancy

Here is the increase in life expectancy for a variety of physical activities.

  • Tennis:                 9.7 years gained in life expectancy
  • Badminton:         6.2 years
  • Soccer:                 4.7 years
  • Cycling:                3.7 years
  • Swimming:          3.4 years
  • Jogging:               3.2 years
  • Calisthenics:       3.1 years

This was an observational study and it remains uncertain whether this relationship is causal. It may be the people who play tennis are naturally more healthy to begin with.

Interestingly, the leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction (tennis, badminton, soccer require 2 or more people) were associated with the best longevity. It has been theorized that belong to a group (tennis club) that meets regularly promotes a sense of trust, support, and commonality, which has been shown to contribute to increased sense of well-being and improved long-term health.

The importance of social connections on longevity has been seen in studies of people living Blue Zones and in Roseto, Pennsylvania which we have written about (hit the links).

Are there other features of tennis that also might explain the increase in life expectancy? Tennis (badminton and soccer) is characterized by short bursts of activity rather than slow steady pace activities and perhaps short bursts of activity repeated over and over is better for health. This is the principle of high intensity interval training on which we have several articles.

Also, tennis is a great sport for working on and maintaining balance. It really works our core muscles: back, hip, thighs, buttocks. Better balance reduces the risks of falls which is associated with head injuries and fractures especially fracture of the hips. Both head injuries and hip fractures can shorten life expectancy. Other activities good for maintaining balance are ballroom dancing and Tai chi.

Where to Play Tennis

If you are interested in taking up tennis, there are thousands of local tennis clubs throughout the United States for every level of play. Contact the USTA (United States Tennis Association) for more information on leagues, clinic, and tournaments in your area.

For those of you who are not interested in living longer, we wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece called How to Age Faster and Die Younger that you may wish to read.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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