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It’s no secret exercise can help you live longer. The American Heart Association’s recommendation of revving your heart rate for at least 30 minutes five times per week has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved circulation, and reduced risk of heart disease. And if you score those exercise minutes outside, recent research shows you’ll feel happier at the same time.
Now scientists have gone a step further and identified the types of exercise that can boost your health the most—and truly, help you live longer, and not just better. The winner? Tennis, which reportedly can add over nine years to your life. Soccer comes up a close second, with an additional five years.
Exercise physiologist and coach Tom Holland, C.S.C.S points out that some of the additional benefits could relate to the start-stop nature of the sports. “Tennis matches and soccer games both involve anaerobic power, yet also require cardiovascular endurance, due to the continuous nature of play,” he says. But the new study’s researchers posit that the social aspects of the game also play a big role in boosting mortality. Older research supports buddying up, too, and it’s thought that friends’ fitness habits can greatly influence your own, not to mention help you feel more supported in your efforts.
Ready to reap the life-enhancing benefits of tennis even if you play a different—or solo—game? Here are two ways to do it:
Get More Social with Sports
Buddy up with the help of TeamSnap, even for regular gym sessions. If you run, for example, use TeamSnap to create a running group, and plan group training sessions using the scheduling and assignments features, as well as Team Chat. You can also upload and share photos from your runs to amplify the fun.
Power Up Your Play
Sports like tennis and soccer provide a unique physical challenge, in that they both require lots of anaerobic power as well as aerobic endurance. Consider adding intervals to your training sessions, and perform a little bit harder than you might in your chosen sport. Increase your intensity by pushing your speed, extending your distance, or shortening your rest periods in between sets.
Lara Rosenbaum is an award-winning journalist and wellness expert whose work has appeared in SELF, Shape, Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Men’s Journal, Prevention, Yoga Journal and countless other publications. She has held editorial positions at several magazines and brands, including Women’s Health, where she was the founding fitness editor, and at Fitbit. Lara is also a former elite athlete, having traveled the world as a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. She is a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher, and in her free time enjoys traveling, playing with her dogs, and adventuring outside.