Advertisement

Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 9, Issue 1–2, pp 35–41 | Cite as

Health status of former elite athletes. The Finnish experience

  • S. Sarna
  • J. Kaprio
  • U. M. Kujala
  • M. Koskenvuo
Review Article

Abstract

Physical activity is an important aspect of health behavior and life-style, when considering the possibilities to prevent premature deaths and sustain functional capacity. We studied former Finnish male athletes and controls to investigate the effects of long-lasting participation in vigorous sports on health, and the main findings are reviewed here. The athletes represented Finland between the years 1920–1965 at least once in international competitions. The following sports were selected: track and field athletics, crosscountry skiing, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, boxing, wrestling, weight lifting, and shooting. The full name, place and date of birth were traced for 2613 (97.7%) men. The referent subjects (N=1712) were selected among those Finnish men who, at the age of 20, were classified completely healthy at the medical examination for induction into military service. In most analyses we grouped the sports according to the type of training needed to achieve maximal results, i.e., principally aerobic training, principally anaerobic training or mixed. In 1985, a questionnaire on physical activity, health and health habits was mailed to surviving former athletes and referents (N=2851, 65.9% of the original cohort). Follow-up for morbidity and mortality was based on national medical registries. We found that former aerobic sports athletes (endurance and mixed sports) in particular have high total and active life expectancy and low risk for ischemic heart disease and diabetes in later years. On the other hand, they have slightly higher risk for lower-limb osteoarthritis. Overall, the benefits of physically active life-style on health were clearly higher than the adverse effects.

Key words

Chronic disease life expectancy older athletes physical activity 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    Blair S.N., Kohl H.W., Gordon N.F., Paffenbarger R.S.: How much physical activity is good for health? Ann. Rev. Publ. Health 13: 99–126, 1992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Karvonen M.J.: Endurance sports, longevity, and health. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 301: 653–655, 1977.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Yamaji K., Shephard R.J.: Longevity and causes of death of athletes. J. Human Ergol. 6: 15–27, 1977.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sarna S., Kaprio J.: Life expectancy of former elite athletes. Sports Med. 17: 149–151, 1994.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Kavanagh T., Mertens D.J., Matosevic V., Shephard R.J., Evans B.: Health and aging of Masters athletes. Clin. J. Sports Med. 1: 72–88, 1989.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sarna S., Sahi T., Koskenvuo M., Kaprio J.: Increased life expectancy of world class male athletes. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 25: 237–244, 1993.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kaprio J., Sarna S.: Decreased risk of occupational disability among former elite male athletes. J. Aging Phys. Activ. 2: 115–126, 1994.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kujala U.M., Kaprio J., Taimela S., Sarna S.: Prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease in former elite athletes. Metabolism 43: 1255–1260, 1994.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kohl H.W., Powell K.E., Gordon N.F., Blair S.N., Paffen-barger R.S.: Physical activity, physical fitness, and sudden cardiac death. Epidemiol. Rev. 14: 37–58, 1992.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kujala U.M., Sarna S., Kaprio J., Koskenvuo M.: Asthma and other pulmonary diseases in former elite athletes. Thorax 51: 288–292, 1996.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kujala U.M., Kaprio J., Sarna S.: Osteoarthritis of the weight-bearing joints of the the lower-limbs in former elite male athletes. Br. Med. J. 308: 231–234, 1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kujala U.M., Kettunen J., Paananen H., Aalto T., Battié M.C., Impivaara O., Videman T., Sarna S.: Knee osteoarthritis in former runners, soccer players, weight lifters, and shooters. Arthritis Rheum. 38: 539–546, 1995.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Kujala U.M., Sarna S., Kaprio J., Koskenvuo M.: Hospital care in later life among former world class Finnish athletes. JAMA, Olympic Issue, 276: 216–220, 1996.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Fogelholm M., Kaprio J., Sarna S.: Healthy life-styles ofGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Internal Publishing Switzerland 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Sarna
    • 1
  • J. Kaprio
    • 2
  • U. M. Kujala
    • 2
  • M. Koskenvuo
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Public HealthUniversity of HelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Unit for Sports and Exercise Medicine, Institute of BiomedicineUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Public HealthUniversity of TurkeTurkuFinland

Personalised recommendations