Health benefits of different sport disciplines for adults: systematic review of observational and intervention studies with meta-analysis

Br J Sports Med. 2015 Apr;49(7):434-40. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-093885. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


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.

Keywords: Aerobic fitness; Evidence based review; Health promotion; Intervention effectiveness; Sports analysis in different types of sports.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / physiology
  • Soccer / physiology
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Swimming / physiology