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Statistically, Michael Phelps has a lot of laps to swim left. New research conducted by a team of scientists has concluded the average Olympic medalist lives almost three years longer than the rest of us. From wealth to possible genetic superiority, there are several different reasons why this abnormality might exist, but the accompanying editorial points to maintaining a regular exercise schedule as the single biggest factor of them all.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the study examined more than fifteen thousand Olympic medalists between the years 1896 and 2010. Athletes were chosen from more affluent countries including but not limited to the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, France and the United Kingdom. Their lifespans were then compared against a control group of remarkably common individuals from the same countries who did not win Olympic medals, and the results were extremely clear. Regardless of country, medal or sport, the Olympians maintained a clear advantage against the general population.
Over the past few decades, studies examining professional athletes and their life expectancies vs the general population have yielded mixed results. Many looking at contact sports have even found such athletes live shorter lives. To date, this is the most comprehensive analysis spanning multiple countries that’s ever been done, and while it showed less of an advantage for wrestlers, boxers and others playing so-called “power sports”, it still showed a slight advantage nonetheless.
If you too would like to live several years longer than expected, the best course of action, since the Olympics are probably out of the question, is to begin working out between two to three hours a week. Your body and your grandchildren will thank you later.