I Will Live Forever If I Never Exercise

January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

I once read that all living beings with warm blood coursing through their veins roughly share the same number of heart beats before dying regardless whether that person is a rat, an elephant or Sam from down the street.

Our poor little hearts pump non stop from the time we come out of our mommy’s hooha until the time someone either lowers us into a grave or shoves us into a box and then over a fire or, if you live on the wild side, until we are eaten by a larger animal than us. By the time we die, it is estimated our hearts will contract about 2.5 billion times! 

The longer we live, and the bigger we are, the longer the time between heartbeats. A hamster for instance, in addition to being tiny and adorable, has a heart rate of about 400 beats per minute and lives on average for four years, while a whale’s heart contracts about 20 beats per minute and can live to 70.

My question is this: if you engage in activities that are supposedly good for your health and your heart like running, exercise and sex, does this reduce your lifespan because it increases your average heart rate? I mean people think about it. A regular and “healthy” dose of exercise and sex could potentially lower your lifespan. (Lord, wouldn’t that be an interesting factoid to plant in the news?)

Of course, your heart rate also increases with things like stress and panic attacks, so if you are like me and you are in a constant state of panic, this just confirms that clenched fists and puke-inducing anxiety are not particularly good for me.

Scientists tell us there there are studies that show that lower resting heart rates are associated with a longer life regardless of how much you exercise. In addition, increased heart rates in a resting state seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular complications.

But scientists also say that a person’t heart rate is an indicator of energy expenditure and that’s why the relationship between heart rate, energy expenditure and lifespan is more complicated than just a simple inverse relationship between heart rate and lifespan. It’s not like pushing leavers they suggest; lower one and the other will increase.

The key seems to be the fact that the relationship between lower heart rate and lifespan is based on the heart being in a “resting” state. Studies also show that people who experience regular bursts of high heart rates from exercising, and thus bursts of energy expenditure, also live longer. Exercising helps the heart, they conclude. Our ancestors engaged in vigorous exercise as a matter of survival and our bodies continue to need it to stay healthy.

There is still a lingering question as to whether there is a relationship between lifespan and heart rate on average, that is whether the relationship applies without the need for those nasty peaks associated with exercising, and whether overall your lifespan can increase if you never exercise and keep your heart rate exceptionally low and at what point does this occur. It seems that scientists have never studied this question and there is a dearth of studies on the topics.

Until I read that there are studies showing otherwise, I intend to lower my heart rate all the time, all in the name of a long and “healthy” life. So there. Suck it exercise.

(1) http://www.medcan.com/articles/heart_beats_and_life_span_do_we_have_a_finite_number_of_heart_beats/

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