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Tour de France racers live longer

Researchers say cyclists die later and are less likely to suffer from cancer or heart problems

TOUR de France cyclists live longer than the average French person – and they are less likely to die of cancer or heart problems.

That is the surprising result of a study carried out by researchers at the biomedical sports institute IRMES – with report co-author Jean-François Toussaint saying that the results were also true for other sports.

Researchers studied the lives of 786 French cyclists who had finished at least one Tour de France since 1947 and analysed their lifespans and causes of death. They found that cyclists had 44% less chance of dying of cancer than the rest of the population and 33% less chance of heart problems.

In all, they were 41% less likely to die prematurely – and the researchers calculated that they lived 6.3years longer than the average French person.

However, Professor Toussaint said that since 1991 there had been increasing use of drugs such as EPO and growth hormones in cycling and, after a sharp rise in drug-related deaths, it was not possible to say if cyclists would continue to have increased lifespans.

The study involved teams from several research centres, led by cardiologist Eloi Marijon of the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, and the report was presented to the European Society of Cardiology symposium in Amsterdam.

Prof Toussaint said that previous studies on cross-country skiers, rowers and Olympic Games participants had previously showed that athletes had longer lives. He added that it was also true for American football players who, although many were likely to suffer brain or degenerative nerve disease, were also likely to have 48% less chance of dying prematurely.

The researchers are looking at several theories as to the causes, such as a genetic factor, the fact that cyclists generally continue to do some sport after retiring – and also that very few cyclists smoke.
Photo: Chelso Flores

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