Recently, Sarna et al. (Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 25:237-244, 1993) reported increased mean life expectancy in former world class athletes. Because lifestyle is associated with longevity, we have examined whether health habits of former Finnish male athletes (N = 1274; present mean age: 57.5, range: 36-94 yr) differed from those of noncompctitive referents (N = 7HS; mean age: 55.7, range: 39-87 yr). The athletes had represented Finland in international competitions in endurance (N = 177), power (N = 454), or other ("mixed") events (N = 643) from 1920-1965. Data on physical characteristies, sociodemographic factors, and health habits were obtained from questionnaires. All dependent variables in an analysis of covariance and in a logistic regression analysis were adjusted for age and occupation. Both leisure acrobic and work activity of all athlete groups was higher (P < 0.01) than that of referents. Compared with the referents, both power and "mixed" athletes were more prone to eat fruits and vegetables and to avoid vitamin supplements, but less prone to use butter and high-fat milk, and to smoke (odds ratios different from 1.0, P < 0.05). Also endurance athletes smoked less and drank less alcohol than the referents (P < 0.05). Higher leisure aerobic activity and less frequent smoking after athletic years might explain higher life expectancy of Finnish athletes.
(C)1994The American College of Sports Medicine