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Editors' Briefs

john darkEveryone could enjoy the "survival advantage" of elite athletes
British Medical Journal 2012;345:e8338

links image John Dark

Exercise - Good for you??

It's a particularly relevant question at this time of gluttony and, for many, restricted access to the great outdoors. In northern Europe we have barely 6 hours of daylight and can't remember when it wasn't raining. And hasn't America been eating turkey since Thanksgiving?

So we all have good intentions: to get back to the gym, the running track, to get out on the pistes (or in Australia, back on the beach). And we can be further encouraged by confirmation that we may live longer too.

Two papers in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal, a number noted more for fun than hard clinical science, looks at survival of Olympic athletes (hardly surprising for 2012). The results are conflicting, but put in context by an excellent editorial, Everyone could enjoy the "survival advantage" of elite athletes. Regardless of what there is to learn from Olympians (and the 448 London 2012 medal winners represent only 0.00008% of the adult populations of their countries), lots of other, good, data confirms that exercise is good. People who do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity conclusively live longer, for periods of at least a year, and possibly up to several years, when compared with the inactive. Olympic athletes from Finland, who maintained their fitness, lived an average of 5 years longer!

And the really good news is that there is an upper limit to the exercise benefit, of about 300 minutes per week-less than an hour a day. Those poor souls working away for hour after hour, every night, may compete better, but live just as long as those of us with modest aims!

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