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Olympic Medalists Live Longer

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Intensity of Sport Doesn’t Matter

In the second study, researchers tracked almost 10,000 athletes with a known age at death who took part in at least one Olympics between 1896 and 1936.

Athletes from high-intensity sports such as cycling and rowing, or moderate-intensity sports such as gymnastics and tennis, had similar death rates compared with athletes from low-intensity sports such as golf or cricket.

However, the researchers did find an 11% increased risk of death among athletes in sports with high risk of body collision, including boxing, rugby, and ice hockey, compared to athletes involved in other sports.

“Golf is just as good as rowing, cycling, or running a marathon for your survival.  However, in the general population, not everyone is just as fit as Olympic athletes,” says researcher Frouke Engelaer, a PhD candidate at Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing in Leiden, Netherlands.

“Exercise is medicine," says Jordan Metzl, MD. He is a sports medicine doctor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “Daily exercise of moderate intensity for 30 minutes to an hour is almost equivalent to the intense stuff. You have to do something that you love, but you don’t have to do an Ironman to be healthy.”

Robert Glatter, MD, agrees. He is an emergency medicine doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City."Some aerobic exercise should be part of your daily routine, but you don’t need to win a gold medal to live a long and healthy life."

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