Survival of the Fittest
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Olympic medalists already run faster, jump farther, and swim longer than the rest of us, but now a new study reveals they also live longer!
The study compared life expectancy among 15,174 Olympic athletes who won medals between 1896 and 2010 with the general population matched by country, sex, and age. Regardless of origin, type of sport, and medal won, medalists lived an average of 2.8 years longer.
Medalists in endurance and mixed sports had roughly the same survival rate, but medalists in rough contact sports, like boxing or ice hockey, have an increased risk of death later in life.
Study authors don’t know exactly why Olympic athletes live longer, but suggest that explanations could include: physical activity, healthy lifestyle, genetic factors, and the wealth and status accompanying the lifestyle.
Another study also found that athletes who trained at different physical intensities have no added survival benefit over athletes from lower intensity sports. They studied 9,889 athletes who took part in at least one Olympic game between 1896 and 1936 with a known age of death.
They adjusted for sex, nationality, and year of birth and found that athletes from sports with high cardiovascular intensity (like cycling) or moderate (like tennis) had similar mortality rates compared with athletes from low cardiovascular intensity sports, such as golf.
However, researchers found that an eleven percent increase risk of mortality in athletes from disciplines with a high risk of body collision and physical contact (boxing or rugby) compared to other Olympic athletes, reflecting the impact of repeated injuries over time.
In another editorial, two public health experts suggest that people who exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, moderately or vigorously, also have an increased survival advantage over the rest of the general population who do not exercise.
Professor Adrian Bauman, School of Public Health at Sydney University, Australia, was quoted as saying, “although the evidence points to a small survival effect of being an Olympian, careful reflection suggests that similar health benefits and longevity could be achieved by all of us through regular physical activity. We could and should all award ourselves that personal gold metal.”
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, December 2012