Play your way to better health

Play your way to better health

When it comes to fitness, there’s physical activity, then there are sports. Both are great for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease. But the difference is that physical activity could mean any body movement, from walking to doing chores. Playing sports is like physical activity on fire — the competition, the lightening fast movements, the goal to win.

Take basketball, for example. You’re sprinting, jumping, squatting and throwing. You rest for a quick time out and keep moving. Every muscle group is engaged; your heart is pumping and before you know it, two hours has passed. During that time, a 160-lb person can burn nearly 600 calories an hour.

Different sports are excellent for physical conditioning and overall wellness, whether you’re trying to beat the opposing team, a partner or your personal record. Research from around the world also shows that sports can have a direct impact on risk factors for heart disease and other conditions. Here are three benefits of including sports in your exercise plan.

Build Muscle

Without strong muscles, the body burns fat less efficiently and is more prone to injury. The only way to build muscle is to work them. Sports are an excellent way to do that.

When a group of men ages 20-43 ran or played soccer for one hour, two days a week, they noticed a huge difference. At the end of 12 weeks, they lost fat mass while increasing bone and muscle mass, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The men also lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Burn More Calories

Playing sports offers an intense cardiovascular workout. Something about the short bursts of intense movement that tend to happen during sports leads to more efficient calorie burn in less time. Research shows that if you’ve only got 30 minutes to spare for a workout, an intense game of soccer or tennis might be the best use of your time.

Here are a few sports that burn more than 500 calories an hour for a 160-lb person:

Touch or flag football – 584

Jogging (5 mph) – 606

Tennis, singles – 584


Running (8mph) –861

Strengthen your bones

Without strong bones, we run a higher risk for osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and can lead to fractures later in life. But high-impact sports can help. Impact sports involve making forceful contact with something, like your feet striking the ground for a jump shot or using your arm to hit a tennis ball with the racket.

Studies have shown that when women, who are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis, participate in recreational activities two days a week for one hour, their bone densities increased. Good bone density can help prevent bone fractures from falling, especially for seniors.

An added bonus

When fitness combines an activity we love and people we like, we are more likely to stick with it. If you and your friends live for the World Cup, join an intramural soccer team. If you can’t wait for the NBA Playoffs, you don’t have to. Get some folks together and start playing on a local court. Not only will you be doing something fun that taps into your personal interests, you’ll also be making one of your best plays to stay healthy.


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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.