Jamaica's Usain Bolt achieved his greatest non-running athletic accomplishment in the NBA Celebrity Game: a slam dunk. (Photo : Reuters)
Olympians in low-impact sports live 2.8 years longer than the average person, according to a study published in the journal BMJ.
The study, which looked at a total of 15,174 medalists from eight countries over the span of 30 years, supplements other recent research suggesting that athletes in contact sports increase their mortality risk by 11 to 16 percent, reports TIME.
Leyden Academy of Vitality and Aging scientist Frouke Engalaer explains, "Think of how many times things go wrong during training, before athletes succeed in their performance at the Olympics. Aging is an accumulation of damage over time. Every small or bigger injury is a form of damage that also will accumulate. From a theoretical point of view you hence can say that these people are aging faster."
While we can't all be Olympians, Dr. Adrian Baumen of Sydney University asserts that vigorous weekly exercise can add years onto anyone's life.
"Although the evidence points to a small survival benefit of being an Olympian, careful reflection suggests that similar health benefits and longevity could be achieved by all of us through regular physical activity," she says.
Engalaer adds, "People tend to think about sports as 'the more the better. 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."