Bust a Move


shoes walking in park

You know that exercising is great for your health, but how you choose to move may impact your risk for mortality. Although any kind of exercise is healthful, new research suggests that certain types of exercise may be better than others in decreasing your risk for mortality.

People tend to choose exercises that fit their lifestyle. Some may prefer a morning jog at 6 am, while others enjoy taking a walk during their lunch break, lifting weights, dancing, cycling on a Peloton, or doing yoga – with goats. Exercise is linked to many health benefits such as improved mental health and better physiological and immunological functioning.

Researchers at Arizona State University analyzed types of exercise reported by adults in 1998 and reviewed all-cause mortality rates from 1998 to 2015. Exercise data were taken from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included questions about fifteen types of exercise: walking, running, aerobics, stretching, cycling, stair climbing, weight lifting, basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball, football, tennis, swimming, and golf. Respondents reported the type of exercise they engaged in along with exercise frequency. The researchers then analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality File (NHIS-LMF), which tracked the mortality status of respondents from the 1998 NHIS (via their Social Security Number) through 2015.

Team sports were notably associated with a lower risk of mortality.


Walking was the most frequent exercise (47.6%), followed by stretching (30.3%), weight-lifting (17.4%), and cycling (13.8%). After controlling for total exercise volume and confounding factors such as demographics and socioeconomic status, walking, aerobics, stretching, weight lifting, and stair climbing were linked to lower risk for mortality. Sixty percent of NHIS respondents reported engaging in more than one type of exercise. For example, some people may have jogged every morning, played in a weekly recreational soccer league, and lifted weights twice a week. Stretching and playing volleyball were uniquely associated with the lowest mortality rates. Overall, people who engaged in some type of exercise had a lower risk for mortality than those who did not exercise at all.

Team sports were notably associated with a lower risk of mortality. The researchers point out that it’s not just the exercise itself that is beneficial. Other factors associated with exercise, such as social support, can benefit overall health and increase longevity. Therefore, volleyball may be favorable because of the exercise and social interactions that go along with the sport. Similarly, stretching was thought to be associated with lower mortality because it usually allows people to engage in physical activity for longer periods of time.

These findings suggest that particular exercises may have more benefits than others, but any kind of exercise seems to be better than none nearly two decades later.

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