Top-level sports people and elite athletes can live more than five years longer than the rest of the population.
The finding comes from an in-depth study by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC).
ILC studied Commonwealth Games competitor records since the inaugural event in 1930 and found that there were large differences in the longevity of medal winners compared to people in the general population that were born in the same year.
Called Marathon or Sprint: Do elite-level athletes live longer than average?, the report was authored by Professor Les Mayhew and health and fitness industry specialist Ray Algar.
According to the report, there are also slight differences between activities, when it comes to their effect on longevity.
For men, longevity is boosted most, by 29 per cent, in the case of aquatics, followed by 25 per cent for track and 24 per cent for indoor sport – when compared with the median age of death of a member of the general population.
This translates to between 4.5 and 5.3 extra years of life.
Across all sports categories, women’s longevity is boosted by 22 per cent, equating to 3.9 extra years of life.
The longevity of long-distance runners is marginally higher than that of those who run shorter distances.
Other findings show that wrestlers live longer than boxers and that there’s no difference in longevity within field events.
Cycling was the only sport that wasn’t associated with longer lives.
The study found that the longevity of male competitors was only 90 per cent compared with the general male population, although this is changing as safety improves.
Professor Les Mayhew, associate head of global research at ILC, said: “We’ve long known that playing sport has a variety of health benefits, but our research shows what a significant impact top-level sport can have on the longevity of the world’s athletes.
“As people watch the efforts of the London marathon runners with awe, perhaps they might reflect that many of those crossing the finish line could expect to add years to their lives.
"Although you can’t generally participate at the highest level throughout your life, the benefits stay with you long after you hang up your trainers or your swimming goggles.
“Perhaps knowing that playing sports increase your chances of a longer life, people of all ages will be encouraged to continue to be physically active throughout their lives.”
To download the full report, click here.