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Why cycle when you can play golf?

Nov 27th, 2013
Staff Writer

Photo credit: rex boggsA recent study from BMJ group (formerly British Medical Journal) found that regularly participating in low intensity exercise has the same physiological benefits as similar amounts of high intensity exercise.

The study was conducted by researchers in the Netherlands who compiled data on the mortality rates of 9,889 Olympic athletes who competed in the Summer Games between 1896 and 1936. The athletes were put into control groups based on whether their sport was low intensity or high intensity, as determined by the Classification of Sports of the American College of Cardiology. Sports like cricket, curling, shooting and golf were on the low intensity end of the scale, and sports like boxing, speed skating, rowing and cycling were on the high end.

The results showed that, no matter the intensity of their sport, all the Olympians had similar risks of mortality. Therefore, “engaging in cycling and rowing (high cardiovascular intensity) had no added survival benefit compared with playing golf or cricket (low cardiovascular intensity,” according to the study’s authors.

The results could be residual from the high status, wealth and prestige associated with being a world-class athlete, which would assume that the similar mortality risks were the result of similar standards of living and lifestyles. However, it could also be argued that only Olympic medal winners are assured of relatively secure lifestyles, and the study did not control specifically for performance once at the Olympics.

Still, regular exercise of any sort is well known to produce health benefits and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But picking a sport because it seems like an intense workout may not be as good a reason as picking a sport because you love it.