Commonwealth Games athletes have been found to live up to five years longer than the rest of the population ©Getty Images

A study from the International Longevity Centre UK has used Commonwealth Games record to find that elite athletes can live more than five years longer than the rest of the population.

The report Marathon or sprint: do elite-level athletes live longer than average? used competitor records since the inaugural edition in 1930, when it was known as the British Empire Games.

Conducted by Professor Les Mayhew and Ray Algar, it said that in male competitors in aquatic sports longevity was increased by 29 per cent equating to 5.3 extra years of life.

There was an increase of 25 per cent for male track athletes and 24 per cent for those in indoor competitions.

The longevity of female competitors across all sports categories was boosted by 22 per cent, or 3.9 extra years of life. 

"We've long known that playing sport has a variety of health benefits, but our research shows what a significant impact top-level sport can have on the longevity of the world's athletes," said Mayhew.

"As people watch the efforts of the London marathon runners with awe, perhaps they might reflect that although you can't generally participate at the highest level throughout your life, the benefits evidently stay with you long after you hang up your trainers or your swimming goggles."

The study also found that longevity was slightly higher for long-distance runners than those who run shorter distances and wrestlers lived longer than boxers.

The researchers used data from Commonwealth Games athletes to base 
 its study on ©ILCUK
The researchers used data from Commonwealth Games athletes to base its study on ©ILCUK

Cycling was the only sport not associated with longer lives as the longevity of male competitors was only 90 per cent than that of the general male population.

However, the authors said this was changing as safety for riders improved.

"Politically, it is easy to measure benefit if someone gets sick and you fix them, but if people don’t get sick in the first place, how do we show that we’re saving the nation money?" said British Olympic silver medallist Sharron Davies.

"That's the problem we have implementing prevent rather than cure.

"But prevention is less painful and cheaper.

"As we age, we atrophy - we lose muscle, we can't burn calories.

"The rate of death of people who fall over and break a hip is huge, yet having core strength means people can balance more easily.

"It's about teaching people what exercise means long-term.

"It's not just about living longer but living more good years."