Increased Average Longevity among the "Tour de France" Cyclists

Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Valencia, Spain.
International Journal of Sports Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.07). 05/2011; 32(8):644-7. DOI: 10.1055/s-0031-1271711
Source: PubMed


It is widely held among the general population and even among health professionals that moderate exercise is a healthy practice but long term high intensity exercise is not. The specific amount of physical activity necessary for good health remains unclear. To date, longevity studies of elite athletes have been relatively sparse and the results are somewhat conflicting. The Tour de France is among the most gruelling sport events in the world, during which highly trained professional cyclists undertake high intensity exercise for a full 3 weeks. Consequently we set out to determine the longevity of the participants in the Tour de France, compared with that of the general population. We studied the longevity of 834 cyclists from France (n=465), Italy (n=196) and Belgium (n=173) who rode the Tour de France between the years 1930 and 1964. Dates of birth and death of the cyclists were obtained on December 31 (st) 2007. We calculated the percentage of survivors for each age and compared them with the values for the pooled general population of France, Italy and Belgium for the appropriate age cohorts. We found a very significant increase in average longevity (17%) of the cyclists when compared with the general population. The age at which 50% of the general population died was 73.5 vs. 81.5 years in Tour de France participants. Our major finding is that repeated very intense exercise prolongs life span in well trained practitioners. Our findings underpin the importance of exercising without the fear that becoming exhausted might be bad for one's health.

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Available from: Fabian Sanchis-Gomar, Jan 23, 2015
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    • "Only certain types of exercise are completely anaerobic, and these necessarily last for only a few seconds (e.g., power lifting). Contractions during exercise may be isometric (muscle contraction without appreciable muscle shortening) or non-isometric (muscle contraction with muscle shortening), isokinetic (constant velocity throughout movement) or nonisokinetic (changing velocity during contraction), or concentric (muscle shortening) or eccentric (muscle lengthening) (7,8). "
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    ABSTRACT: The concentration of several biochemical and hematological biomarkers is strongly influenced by a number of preanalytical variables. Several lines of evidence attest that short, middle, and long-term exercise, as well as the relative intensity of physical effort (from mild to strenuous), may influence a broad array of laboratory variables. The amount of extracellular release and clearance from blood of most of these biomarkers is markedly influenced by the biological characteristics of the molecule(s), level of training, type, intensity and duration of exercise, and time of recovery after training. It is hence noteworthy that test results that fall outside the conventional reference ranges in athletes not only may reflect the presence of a given disease, but may frequently mirror an adaptation to regular training or changes that have occurred during and/or following strenuous exercise, and which should be clearly acknowledged to prevent misinterpretation of laboratory data. The aim of this narrative review is to provide an update about the most significant changes of some biochemical and hematological biomarkers in response to physical exercise, for appropriate interpretation of these changes in the context of physically active subjects.
    Biochemia Medica 02/2014; 24(1):68-79. DOI:10.11613/BM.2014.009 · 2.67 Impact Factor
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    • "We have recently proposed that ‘exercise acts as a drug’ [31]. The beneficial effects of regular exercise for the promotion of health and cure of diseases have been clearly established in humans [11,32-34] as well as in rodents [12,35,36]. We did not find any effect of lifelong spontaneous exercise on longevity (See Figure 1). "
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    ABSTRACT: Life expectancy at birth in the first world has increased from 35 years at the beginning of the 20th century to more than 80 years now. The increase in life expectancy has resulted in an increase in age-related diseases and larger numbers of frail and dependent people. The aim of our study was to determine whether life-long spontaneous aerobic exercise affects lifespan and healthspan in mice. Male C57Bl/6J mice, individually caged, were randomly assigned to one of two groups: sedentary (n = 72) or spontaneous wheel-runners (n = 72). We evaluated longevity and several health parameters including grip strength, motor coordination, exercise capacity (VO2max) and skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis. We also measured the cortical levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a neurotrophin associated with brain plasticity. In addition, we measured systemic oxidative stress (malondialdehyde and protein carbonyl plasma levels) and the expression and activity of two genes involved in antioxidant defense in the liver (that is, glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and manganese superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD)). Genes that encode antioxidant enzymes are considered longevity genes because their over-expression may modulate lifespan. Aging was associated with an increase in oxidative stress biomarkers and in the activity of the antioxidant enzymes, GPx and Mn-SOD, in the liver in mice. Life-long spontaneous exercise did not prolong longevity but prevented several signs of frailty (that is, decrease in strength, endurance and motor coordination). This improvement was accompanied by a significant increase in the mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle and in the cortical BDNF levels. Life-long spontaneous exercise does not prolong lifespan but improves healthspan in mice. Exercise is an intervention that delays age-associated frailty, enhances function and can be translated into the clinic.
    09/2013; 2(1):14. DOI:10.1186/2046-2395-2-14
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    • "Engaging in greater amounts of physical activity has been shown previously to have anti-aging effects. Ultra-endurance athletes have 17% greater longevity compared to the general population [33], and numerous studies have demonstrated decreased mortality with more frequent exercise [3], [34]. With telomere length a marker of biological age, less active individuals exhibit 10 years biologically older leukocytes compared to their more active peers [8]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Telomere length is recognized as a marker of biological age, and shorter mean leukocyte telomere length is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is unclear whether repeated exposure to ultra-endurance aerobic exercise is beneficial or detrimental in the long-term and whether it attenuates biological aging. We quantified 67 ultra-marathon runners' and 56 apparently healthy males' leukocyte telomere length (T/S ratio) using real-time quantitative PCR. The ultra-marathon runners had 11% longer telomeres (T/S ratio) than controls (ultra-marathon runners: T/S ratio = 3.5±0.68, controls: T/S ratio = 3.1±0.41; β = 0.40, SE = 0.10, P = 1.4×10(-4)) in age-adjusted analysis. The difference remained statistically significant after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors (P = 2.2×10(-4)). The magnitude of this association translates into 16.2±0.26 years difference in biological age and approximately 324-648bp difference in leukocyte telomere length between ultra-marathon runners and healthy controls. Neither traditional cardiovascular risk factors nor markers of inflammation/adhesion molecules explained the difference in leukocyte telomere length between ultra-marathon runners and controls. Taken together these data suggest that regular engagement in ultra-endurance aerobic exercise attenuates cellular aging.
    PLoS ONE 07/2013; 8(7):e69377. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0069377 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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