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Health benefits of different sport disciplines for adults: systematic review of observational and intervention studies with meta-analysis
  1. Pekka Oja1,
  2. Sylvia Titze2,
  3. Sami Kokko3,
  4. Urho M Kujala3,
  5. Ari Heinonen3,
  6. Paul Kelly4,
  7. Pasi Koski5,
  8. Charlie Foster6
  1. 1UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, Tampere, Finland
  2. 2Institute of Sport Sciences, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
  3. 3Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
  4. 4Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  5. 5Department of Teacher Education, University of Turku, Rauma, Finland
  6. 6British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, University of Oxford, Oxford, England
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pekka Oja, UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, P.O. Box 30, Tampere 33501, Finland; pekka.oja{at}


The aim was to assess the quality and strength of evidence for the health benefits of specific sport disciplines. Electronic search yielded 2194 records and the selection resulted in 69 eligible studies (47 cross-sectional, 9 cohort, 13 intervention studies). 105 comparisons between participation and non-participation groups in 26 different sport disciplines were reported. Moderately strong evidence showed that both running and football improve aerobic fitness and cardiovascular function at rest, and football reduces adiposity. Conditional evidence showed that running benefits metabolic fitness, adiposity and postural balance, and football improves metabolic fitness, muscular performance, postural balance, and cardiac function. Evidence for health benefits of other sport disciplines was either inconclusive or tenuous. The evidence base for the health benefits of specific sports disciplines is generally compromised by weak study design and quality. Future research should address the health effects of different sport disciplines using rigorous research designs.

  • Health promotion
  • Sports analysis in different types of sports
  • Aerobic fitness
  • Intervention effectiveness
  • Evidence based review

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