A recent international study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine measured the impact of individual sports on mortality and found that while most sports – including cycling, swimming and aerobics – enhanced life expectancy, outcomes appeared to favour tennis, squash, racquetball and pickleball.

Racquet sports work every muscle in the body, including the brain, and keep the cardiovascular and muscular system in top shape at any age. Playing a strategic mental game with friends is enjoyable – and that ensures it will be a regular, long-term lifestyle activity.

Tennis is, arguably, the most “muscular” of the racquet sports.  Running, swinging, and pivoting – the body is in constant motion throughout the game. Tennis pro Bjorn Borg calls it a game of “a thousand little sprints.” This burns a lot of calories (400-600 calories per hour in a singles match), while strengthening muscles, bone mass, and mental agility as players plan their moves and weigh their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Although most players prefer to play in the fresh air on an outdoor court, rainy days can put a damper on the game for most of the late fall, winter, and early spring here on the Coast.  The Sunshine Coast Racquet Club’s two-court indoor facility in Sechelt is available to members year-round for lessons, drop-in or league play. For more information, visit their website: srctennis.ca

Squash and racquetball are more intense sports, usually played on indoor courts such as the ones at Gibsons Area Community Centre (equipment rental available). With less room for running and faster returns, the appeal of these games is the speed and agility required. The Sunshine Coast Squash Association arranges league and tournament play, and helps match members looking for casual games throughout the year. For more information visit coastsquash.ca

Invented on Washington’s Bainbridge Island, Pickleball is an excellent game for all abilities, including those in wheelchairs. Two, three or four can play, using solid paddles (similar to table tennis) to hit a perforated ball (similar to a waffle ball) over a net (similar to, but lower than, a tennis net) on a court (with dimensions and layout similar to a badminton court). The Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association (SCPA) is the go-to group for information on scheduled and pick-up Pickleball games. Their sunshinecoastPickleball.org site lists information on tournaments, social events, clinics, and schedules and times for various indoor and outdoor venues.

Whichever activity you choose, studies agree – regular physical exercise is likely to keep us fitter, healthier and happier for longer.