A new study published in the journal BMJ this week shows that Olympic medalists live longer than the general public, “irrespective of country, medal or sport,” ABC News reported. The medalists lived an average of 2.8 years longer.
“To put this survival advantage into some perspective, it is almost as large as the difference in life expectancy between men and women, so male Olympic medalists can expect to live almost as long as the average woman in the general population,” the study’s lead author Philip Clarke, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, told Time magazine.
The researchers’ theories for why this is the case, according to Time: Olympic medalists devote more time to exercising than the general population and the fame and wealth that elite athletes attract may make it possible for them to live healthier lives.
A separate study, also published in BMJ this week, found that Olympians live longer regardless of how intensive their sports are, ABC News reported. The researchers found that Olympians who competed in less cardiovascular-intense sports like golfing enjoyed the same longevity as Olympians who competed in cycling and rowing.
This has implications for amateur athletes, the researchers said.
“People tend to think about sports as ‘the more the better,’” the study’s lead author Frouke Engelaer, from the Leyden Academy of Vitality and Aging in Leiden, Netherlands, told Time. “We have shown that within a great population of athletes, this does not [hold]. You don’t have to take the effort to do intensive rowing. Playing golf is just as good for your survival.”
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