Want to Live Longer? You May Want to Consider Baseball as a Career

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One would expect professional athletes to be healthier than most people. They get lots of exercise, and many have good diets. New research does show that some of their habits could make them live longer, on average, than the rest of the male population.

A study that appears in JAMA Internal Medicine argues that the physical traits, habits, incomes and even career longevity help Major League Baseball (MLB) players live longer than the average man. The study covered people who died between 1979 and 2013. The summary of the findings is titled, “Longevity Among Major League Baseball Players—Play Ball!”

The authors summarized their conclusion: “The major study finding is significant longevity, as MLB players were found to have a rate of death that was only 76% of what is expected in US men. This mortality advantage is likely in part a consequence of the healthy worker effect because players had lower mortality risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer, unintentional injury, and respiratory disease, the 4 leading causes of death in the United States today.”

MLB players may have other advantages. Their level of activity could mean they have a lower body mass index (BMI) than most men. BMI is a measure of whether people are overweight. Players may have access to better health care during their careers. Since most are more affluent than the average person, that access may continue after they retire.

Other advantages players may have are related to the factors that allowed them to become professional players in the first place. Their “strength, coordination, and sense of balance” may lower the rate at which they are in car accidents or injured from falls. In fact, significantly fewer MLB athletes than NFL or NBA athletes have had their careers ended or drastically impacted by an injury — these are the 23 greatest athletes sidelined by brutal injury.

The authors added that baseball player health is very different from that of many football players. Pro baseball players rarely suffer from the level of head trauma that football players do.

What advice do the authors of the study have for the rest of us? “Maintaining a proper weight, exercising, and remaining fit is effective in increasing life expectancy, especially if begun at an early age, as was likely the case for these players.” That is advice doctors and scientists have given the general population for years. Most people know the basics of longevity, but the reality of staying healthy is more complicated than just eating the right foods and exercising. Here are 50 health tips every man should know.