We recently were alerted to a 2018 study on the effects of different sports on longevity. It turns out that regular participation in sports is great for helping you live a longer and healthier life. No surprises there, but the magnitude of the effect differs between sports quite considerably.

The Copenhagen City Heart Study followed nearly 9,000 people for 25 years and monitored their sporting and other lifestyle habits. This is what they found:

Life expectancy gains compared with the sedentary group for different sports were as follows: tennis, 9.7 years; badminton, 6.2 years; soccer, 4.7 years; cycling, 3.7 years; swimming, 3.4 years; jogging, 3.2 years; calisthenics, 3.1 years; and health club activities, 1.5 years.

Nearly 10 years longer life by playing tennis! Incredible. Why was that so much more effective than the other sports/activities?

The authors suggested that “the leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction were associated with the best longevity”. Which is consistent with other research on the importance of social interactions. Loneliness has been shown to have numerous negative health impacts as per this information from the Tony Robbins website:


Learning how to deal with loneliness can have a profound impact on other parts of your mind and body. Those who are lonely often choose to eat “comfort foods” that are higher in fat and sugar and usually experience a decline in sleep quality and quantity. But when you are happy and fulfilled, you operate at your peak state, with energy and vitality


Loneliness can lead to heightened levels of stress, which alters the natural flow of various cellular processes inside the body and opens you up to premature aging. As with comfort food, loneliness may lead to indulging in alcohol or other substances to the point of dehydration, which also affects cell function that may cause signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles, to become more prominent.


Research shows loneliness is as deadly as if you smoked 15 cigarettes per day and that people who are lonely are 50% more likely to die at a premature age. An extended period of loneliness compromises your immune system, which can lead to heightened inflammation, heart disease and a host of other serious health conditions. 


“The effect of [loneliness] is comparable to obesity, something public health takes very seriously,” says BYU researcher Julianne Holt-Lundstad, lead author of the study. “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.” The BYU data found that the subjective feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26%.