International Journal of Sports Medicine publishes junk science.

The following is an abstract of a report in the May 2011 edition of the IJSM produced at the Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Valencia, Spain. I havn’t read the full version and it is quite probable that I wouldn’t understand it if I had but I am singularly unimpressed by this research. There is no mention of the very many confounding factors that could explain the increased longevity of TDF riders so I will list a few.

In this period the French drank vast quantities of cheap plonk and smoked trillions of unfiltered cigarettes. TDF riders did drink and some smoked but very limited amounts because the D.S. was on their case and you can’t smoke so much if you are racing and training seven hours a day.

Their diet would be better than the average French worker.

They took vitamin supplements including B12 injections.

Because of their extreme exposure to sunlight they had high blood levels of vitamin D3

There are no women in the sample so half of the population can conclude nothing from this research.

unlike the controls (the general population) the subjects are not randomly selected, they are a very special group of male athletes. Anyone who has trained with a successful long stage race rider, as I have, knows that a training and racing programme that will bring him to peak fitness will wear down an ordinary rider (eg me).

They consumed industrial quantities of amphetimines. This probably didn’t help much with life expectancy but if there is a difference between the two groups it must be allowed for.

I suspect that the “researchers” knew the answer they wanted before they started looking.

Abstract:
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 three 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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