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Olympians Live Longer, Study Finds

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Not only does Michael Phelps have more gold medals than you, he’ll probably live longer, too.  A new study found Olympic medalists live an average of 2.8 years longer than their fellow countrymen.

“Olympic medalists live longer than the general population, irrespective of country, medal or sport,” study author Dr. David Studdert of the Melbourne School of Population Health in Australia wrote in the study of 15,000 medalists from nine countries, published Thursday in the journal BMJ.

Athletes who competed in cardiovascular-intense events such as cycling and rowing had the same survival advantage as those in less-intense sports such as golfing, according to a separate study of 9,000 athletes published in the same journal.  Athletes who participated in high-injury risk events such as boxing, rugby or ice hockey, on the other hand, had an increased risk of death compared with other Olympians.

But you don’t have to be an Olympian to benefit from physical activity.  A 2012 study published in The Lancet suggests simply eliminating inactivity could add nearly a year to your lifespan.

“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,” Dr. Adrian Bauman of Sydney University’s School of Public Health and Dr. Steven N. Blair of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health wrote in an editorial accompanying the studies.  “We could and should all award ourselves that personal gold medal.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity -- such as brisk walking -- weekly for adults ages 18 to 64.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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