Tour de France 'yellow jersey' wearers live significantly longer

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It is widely accepted that exercise is good for you and as a result of reduced incidence of hypokinetic diseases can lead to a longer life. It has also been suggested that excessive volumes of exercise may actually be harmful to health and thus shorten life. To date there are only a few studies that have examined longevity in elite athletes with very high volumes of exercise. Participants in the Tour de France represent a group of athletes who have one of the highest total exercise volumes across all elite athletes. Therefore the aim of this study was to select the best Tour de France riders, those who have worn the leaders 'Yellow Jersey' (1903-2020) and determine their longevity in comparison to the general population for their country of birth. A total of 294 cyclists have worn the yellow jersey and thus qualify for this study. Dates of birth and death were determined from Wikipedia for all but one rider and used to calculate age at death or current age. From the sample 164 riders were still alive with 129 having died. To appropriately ascertain the potential impact of their exercise history on longevity it was important to compare each rider to the life tables for their country of birth determined from the Human Mortality Database ( Therefore age of death for each rider was compared to the longevity at birth in 5 year blocks for the country of their birth. Data was analysed with a Mann-Whitney U non-parametric independent-t test. The age at death (M=68.6, SD=17.7 years) was 20.1 years (95% CI 16.8-23.5) years older than the equivalent general population. For those riders still alive 46 of them had already passed the expected population age for general public born in the same year and country, and overall had already lived 22.1 years (SD=13.1) longer than expected. These results suggest that the best Tour de France cyclists live on average significantly (P<0.01) longer than equivalent general population and longer than previous similar studies have suggested (Sanchis-Gomar et al. 2011, International Journal of Sports Medicine 32, 644-647 ). There are of course significant limitations to this type of analysis as it is not possible to determine lifestyles beyond their professional cycling career which could have a significant influence on health and longevity. However, these and other results now seem to challenge the common belief that large lifetime volumes of exercise could be harmful to health and thus longevity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2021
EventBASES 2021 Conference - Online, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Nov 202118 Nov 2021 (Event website.)


ConferenceBASES 2021 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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