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Olympic medalists outlive the rest of us

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From page A11 | December 21, 2012 |

First, be advised that the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal is, by design, a display case full of spoofs and somewhat silly, offbeat research.

Still, the hardly surprising news from Australian researchers that Olympic medalists are likely to outlive the rest of us by an average of 2.8 years is another nudge to get off the couch and into some exercise.

The conclusion was based on analysis of the records of more than 15,000 medalists from nine countries, who won medals between 1896 and 2010, matched against the life expectancy of the general population in their country.

Survival advantage was the same no matter what the athlete’s age or sex, or whether they took gold, silver or bronze.

A second study, which tracked nearly 10,000 Olympic athletes (who competed between 1896 and 1936) with a known age at death, offers a bit of cheer for those of us who don’t train like Michael Phelps.

There seems to be no survival advantage to participating in a high-intensity sport. Golfers and cricket players had about the same mortality rate as cyclists or rowers.

However, the research found that those who participated in sports with a lot of physical contact and collisions – such as boxing or ice hockey – had an 11 percent greater risk of death than the other athletes. (American football has never been an Olympic sport; rugby was included through 1928.)

Scripps Howard News Service

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