Take a look at this interesting response by Bradley Elliot, Centre de recherche de l’Hôpital Laval, Québec, Canada to Paul Joseph Boyle’s paper “Does occupational success influence longevity among England test cricketers?”
I read the recent article by Paul Boyle (Boyle 2008) regarding the longevity of English test cricketers with interest. In this paper the authors linked length of international cricket career (‘success’) with lifespan, suggesting that a successful life lead to a longer life. The hypothesis that quality of life grants one a physiological advantage and therefore increases length of life is well accepted in the medical field and its mechanisms deserve closer examination.
However, I feel that the author has potentially overreached with this conclusion by dismissing the effect of physical activity on lifespan. The author states that the increased levels of physical fitness we would expect in world class athletes are unlikely to affect lifespan because “cricket is not a sport which requires physical strength”. In this conclusion the author has incorrectly regarded fitness as musculoskeletal strength alone, ignoring the important aerobic component. Cricket is primarily an aerobic sport, and the fitness of its players is often underestimated (Noakes and Durandt 2000). Several studies in both animals and humans have demonstrated a link between aerobic activity and lifespan.
Rats subjected to only 10 minutes walking a day live 25% longer than sedentary littermates (Retzlaff et al. 1966). The classic London busmen study (Heady et al. 1956) and several others (reviewed by Warburton et al. 2006) all demonstrated that people who worked in physically active positions lived significantly longer then workmates who had more sedentary positions.
It is reasonable to assume that those who were honored to represent their country for longer had a higher level of physical activity for a longer period of time than those who did not, therefore likely having an effect on longevity.
Centre de recherche de l’Hôpital Laval, Québec, Canada
Heady, J. A., J. N. Morris and P. A. Raffle (1956). “Physique of London busmen; epidemiology of uniforms.” Lancet 271(6942): 569-70.
Noakes, T. D. and J. J. Durandt (2000). “Physiological requirements of cricket.” J Sports Sci 18(12): 919-29.
Retzlaff, E., J. Fontaine and W. Furuta (1966). “Effect of daily exercise on life-span of albino rats.” Geriatrics 21(3): 171-7.
Warburton, D. E., C. W. Nicol and S. S. Bredin (2006). “Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence.” Cmaj 174(6): 801-9.