Leisure activities can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and death

CNN — Do you want to live longer and healthier? Pick an activity you enjoy and get moving. Pick just about anything: walk, run, swim, play tennis, bike, swim, play golf, play racquet sports, or even walk for exercise.

All of these leisure activities appear to reduce the risk of premature death, as well as death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The National Cancer Institute study analyzed responses from more than 272,000 people aged 59 to 82 who completed questionnaires about their leisure activities as part of the Diet and Health Study. from the National Institutes of Health-AARP, a longitudinal study of the relationship between diet and health.

Study researchers followed participants for a dozen years and analyzed health records for deaths from cancer, heart disease, and other causes.

The United States Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that American adults get 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.

Any combination of aerobic activities performed for the recommended length per week was associated with a 13% lower risk of death from any cause compared to no activities, the researchers found.

Playing racquet sports had the highest return for cardiovascular problems: there was a 27% reduction in the risk of death from heart disease and a 16% reduction in premature death. The greatest reduction in cancer risk (19%) was associated with running, while running reduced the risk of premature death by 15%, according to the study.

Walking for exercise was most beneficial in reducing the risk of premature death after racket sports and running, the study found.

All of the activities studied were associated with lower risks of death, according to the study.

“Participation in any of the activities was associated with lower mortality compared to those who did not participate in each activity, including moderate-intensity activities,” wrote study author Eleanor. Watts, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study was only able to show an association, not a complete cause and effect.

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