Fact Check: Professional Athletes HAVE Lived To Be 100 Years Old -- Exercise Is Shown To Increase Lifespan

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: Professional Athletes HAVE Lived To Be 100 Years Old -- Exercise Is Shown To Increase Lifespan Living Longer

Has a professional athlete never lived to be 100 years old, thus evidencing that exercise "doesn't increase lifespan" and "in fact, exercise can shorten lifespan"? No, that's not true: Globally, there are a number of professional athletes who have lived to be 100 years old and beyond, including several of whom are alive as of this publication. Furthermore, scientific evidence shows that exercise prevents disease and promotes a longer lifespan by as much as 6.9 years. An expert that Lead Stories spoke with said that "exercising regularly delays death."

A version of the claim originated in a 3:05 minute ​​clip shared to TikTok on May 2, 2023, that asserts exercise "doesn't increase lifespan" and "in fact, exercise can shorten lifespan." A caption that accompanied the post read:

Exercise doesn't 🚫 increase lifespan ⚰️ in fact, exercise can shorten Lifespan 🪦 if you fail to restore lost nutrients, which can lead to a variety of nutritional deficiency diseases 🤢.

Dr. Joel Wallach talks about his analysis of studies 🔬 and athletes 🏋️‍♂️🚴‍♀️ showing that exercise 🏃‍♂️ can have a very negative 👎 impact on your health 🤧, especially if you fail to increase intake of vitamins & minerals to make up for those nutrients lost through sweat 🥵 during physical ⛹️🚴‍♂️ activity.

Lead Stories identified the speaker in the video as naturopath and veterinarian Joel Wallach, who stated the following in the video:

There's not a single study which shows that exercise helps you live longer and when I started looking into that, I found that there's never been a single professional athlete ever live to be 100... if exercise was good for you, there should be a significant percentage of professional athletes living to be 100 because nobody exercises more than professional[s].

Below is how the post appeared at the time of this publication:


(Source: TikTok screengrab taken Fri May 5 03:55:00 UTC 2023)

There are dozens of professional athletes from around the world who have lived to be 100 years old and beyond. Additionally, scientific evidence largely suggests that exercise prevents disease and those who exercise regularly may increase their lifespan by up to 6.9 years.

In an email to Lead Stories received May 5, 2023, Carol Garber, a professor of movement sciences in the Teachers College at Columbia University, stated that there "is a plethora of studies showing that exercise reduces the risk of mortality." Garber's research expertise is in understanding the role of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, especially for vulnerable populations like older adults. She added:

A search of scientific databases on this topic yields over 4,000 articles studying the associations between regular exercise and physical activity in many different populations, including the general population and people with chronic diseases like heart disease and older people, supporting showing that it is an irrefutable fact that exercise, when done regularly, reduces mortality. from all causes as well as disease specific (such as heart disease) mortality. Evidence based Physical Guidelines published by the World Health Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,Canadian Health Officials and others also have come to such a conclusion after reviewing the scientific evidence.

The TikTok clip was taken from a 10-minute version of the same video posted to YouTube on May 4, 2023, that identified the speaker as Joel Wallach, co-founder of the lifestyle company Youngevity International, Inc. (YGI), which sells nutritional and wellness products. YGI describes Wallach as a research veterinarian and naturopathic physician who believes that "all humans require 90 essential nutrients to achieve and maintain optimal health."

On June 5, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning letter to YGI regarding health claims related to COVID-19.

Wallach's claim that "there's never been a single professional athlete ever live to be 100" is false. Globally, there are a number of professional athletes who have lived to be a centurion and beyond, including -- but not limited to -- the following individuals who are still alive as of this writing:

Stuart Jay Olshansky, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and research associate at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago, told Lead Stories in an email received May 8, 2023, that Wallach was not "not an expert on human longevity."

"You never use 100 as a frame of reference for human survival because the chances of anyone living that long is less than 5 percent, so it's already unlikely that the athletes mentioned would have a chance to live that long," Olshansky told Lead Stories.

The assertation made by Wallach that "there's not a single study which shows that exercise helps you live longer" is also false. There are numerous studies that evidence physical activity increases life expectancy. A 2012 review of 13 studies published in the Journal of Aging Research, for example, concluded that regular physical activity is associated with an increase in life expectancy of between .4 and 6.9 years.

Similarly, a 2022 study conducted by Harvard researchers analyzed 30 years of medical records and mortality data from more than 100,000 adults. The team found that people who followed minimum guidelines for physical activity reduced their risk of early death by as much as 21 percent. Individuals who exercised two to four times the minimum could lower their risk by as much as 31 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that regular exercise can help prevent a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. The agency also estimates that 110,000 deaths could be prevented annually if adults in the U.S. over the age of 40 increased their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by even a small amount.

The World Health Organization suggests that people who are insufficiently active have a 20 to 30 percent increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active.

Recommendations set forth by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, a report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, suggest that adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.

Lead Stories has debunked other pseudo-medical claims, including that there is no evidence that rubbing one's ears improves kidney health, that acupressure massages do not relieve asthma, and that there is no evidence that ultrasonic wristbands will "liquify fat cells."

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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