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Robin Hood in SEM? What can we take from elite sport to give back to wider public health?
  1. Jane S Thornton1,2,
  2. Jon Patricios3,
  3. Joanne Kemp4,
  4. Lars Engebretsen5,6,
  5. Jonathan Drezner7
  1. 1 Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 Wits Sport and Health (WiSH), School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg-Braamfontein, South Africa
  4. 4 Latrobe Sports Exercise Medicine Research Centre, School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
  6. 6 Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  7. 7 Center for Sports Cardiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jane S Thornton, Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London ON N6A 5C1, Canada; jane.s.thornton{at}

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The current pandemic has made abundantly clear that when we are forced to reduce life to the essentials, physical activity becomes more important than ever. Even before COVID-19 frustrated our daily routines, the concept of physical activity for health already had begun to enjoy a surge in popularity.

When the WHO released its 2020 Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour this past November,1 2 the message was simple—every move counts. That is, moving for even a few minutes a day is better than nothing and has proven health benefits. At the other end of the exercise spectrum, there is an increasing interest in how regular intense exercise, similar to that undertaken by elite sportspersons, may benefit health and longevity.3

Is there a role for elite sport to inform public health interventions? Influential international organizations think so, including the WHO, who renewed their partnership with a new work plan under a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last May.4 As IOC President Thomas Bach reminded us, ‘sport can save lives’ and is about more than competition.

While Bach’s words may resonate with our readership, they also challenge the established notion that sport—elite sport in particular—is somehow set apart …

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  • Twitter @janesthornton, @jonpatricios, @JoanneLKemp, @larsengebretsen, @DreznerJon

  • Contributors JST and JD developed the editorial idea. JST composed the initial draft. All authors contributed to further content development, writing and final approval of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests JD is Editor-In-Chief, and JST, JD, JP and LE are Editors for BJSM. LE is Head of Medical Sciences at the IOC.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.