Olympians live longer than most people
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Olympic medallists live longer than the general population, regardless of country of origin, medal won, or type of sport played, a study has found.
In the study, researchers compared life expectancy among 15,174 Olympic athletes who won medals between 1896 and 2010 with general population groups matched by country, sex, and age.
All medallists lived an average of 2.8 years longer – a significant survival advantage over the general population in eight out of the nine country groups studied.
Gold, silver and bronze medallists enjoyed roughly the same survival advantage, as did medallists in both endurance and mixed sports. Medallists in power sports had a smaller, but still significant, advantage over the general population.
The authors said that, although their study was not designed to determine why Olympic athletes live longer, "possible explanations include genetic factors, physical activity, healthy lifestyle, and the wealth and status that come from international sporting glory."
A second study comparing athletes who trained at different physical intensities, found that those from high or moderate intensity sports have no added survival benefit over athletes from low intensity sports. But those who engage in disciplines with high levels of physical contact, such as boxing, rugby and ice hockey, are at an increased risk of death in later life, the data showed.
In the second study, researchers measured the effect of high intensity exercise on mortality later in life among former Olympic athletes.
They tracked 9,889 athletes with a known age at death, who took part in at least one Olympic Games between 1896 and 1936. Together they represented 43 disciplines requiring different levels of exercise intensity and physical contact.
After adjusting for sex, year of birth and nationality, they found that athletes from sports with high cardiovascular intensity (such as cycling and rowing) or moderate cardiovascular intensity (such as gymnastics and tennis) had similar mortality rates compared with athletes from low cardiovascular intensity sports, such as golf or cricket.