We all watched and admired athletes. But besides their physically fit appearance, will the athletes you are watching today live longer than you because they're olympians?
Around 2.5 billion years ago, bacteria began adapting to live in the oxygen rich environments on Earth. Billions of years later, we humans still rely on oxygen to live and have developed incredibly complex ways to utilize it from the atmosphere.
Athletes it seems, may be doing the best. Some athletes success can be directly related to how well they able to use oxygen. Something known as the VO2 Max—this is a measure of;
- How much oxygen the lungs absorb into the blood?
- How much blood the heart can pump?
- How efficiently your muscles are able to grab the oxygen out of the blood?
If you're consistently athletic, it increases. Endurance athletes like cross-country skiers require more oxygen for their support. As a result of a higher VO2 max than power athletes like, short distance speed skaters. In fact, studies have shown that the VO2 max of cross-country skiers could easily predict their mettle outcomes at Olympic events.
So, a more fit individual will have a higher VO2 max and therefore be a more successful athlete.
However, could this also project the life span of an individual. Three large international studies have looked at the life expectancy of athletes versus non-athletes on various sports and found a big difference.
- On average, power athletes like bobsleighers slipped 1.6 years longer than non-athletes.
- Team athletes like those in ice hockey lived for years longer.
- Finally, endurance athletes like long distance speed skaters live 5.6 years longer than non-athletes.
Amazingly these results hold true for Olympians around the world. Regardless of their nationality or whether they won gold, silver or bronze. That being said, a gold medal in an endurance event is not golden ticket to a long life. Athletes must keep their VO2 max up throughout their entire lives to reap these extra years.
If you compete at the Olympics, win a gold medal and then give up on the sport entirely. You're not likely to outlive consistently athletic individual.
So, when it comes to living longer, it seems every Olympian is a winner. As at home, we should be inspired get out there and become active. So, we can compete with the best of them in the race of life.