Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sports and longevity: Olympics medal winners live longer than others

Olympians Live Longer Than the Rest of Us

by Sarah C. P. Williams

When medal-winning athletes return home from the Olympic Games, their fame may be short-lived, but they can look forward to a long life, reports Science.

A new study has found that Olympic medalists live an average of 2.8 years longer than the rest of us, whether they're a gymnast, golfer, runner, or athlete in any other event.

The study used data on 15,174 male and female athletes who won medals in Olympic Games since 1896 and found that 30 years after any given Olympics, 8% more medalists were alive than others from their country and birth year.

The effect, a second study concluded, wasn't just seen in Olympic athletes who participated in high-endurance or high-intensity events. Researchers found no difference in mortality, for example, between cyclists, rowers, tennis stars, and cricket players.

But the factor that did make a difference: whether a sport had high levels of physical contact and collisions. Olympians in sports with higher bodily collision, such as boxing, had an 11% higher mortality risk than those in sports with minimal collisions. Both studies were published online today in BMJ.

The researchers hypothesize that medalists could live longer because of their intensive training, exercise levels throughout life, or because their success leads to increased wealth or education levels, but more research will be needed to determine what is at play.

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