The lifespan of less than 4 minutes shows that extreme exertion does not seem to limit the lifespan

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Extreme exercise does not appear to shorten lifespan as commonly believed, according to findings from a study examining the lifespan of the first 200 athletes to run a mile in under 4 minutes, published in The Guardian magazine. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

They outlive the general population by several years, according to the study, which marks the 70th anniversary of the groundbreaking achievement of Roger Bannister, who in May 1954 became the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes.

Although regular moderate exercise is considered a pillar of healthy aging, it has long been thought that exposing the body to bouts of extreme endurance exercise can push it too far and shorten life expectancy, the researchers say.

The repeated bouts of near-maximal to maximal exercise performed by mile runners make them a unique group in which to test the potential impact of extremely intense exercise on longevity, the researchers explain.

They therefore examined a compendium of 1,759 athletes who had run a mile in under 4 minutes as of June 2022, and extracted the details of the first 200 to do so, on the grounds that they would be at an age would match or exceed the age of 1,759 athletes. the typical life expectancy for their generation.

The runners’ lifespans were tracked using publicly available information, from the exact date of their first successful attempt to complete the 4-minute mile until age 100, the end of 2023, or death, to determine the average difference in speed to find out. life expectancy between them and the general population, adjusted by age, gender and nationality.

This difference was calculated as a runner’s observed life years minus the population-matched life expectancy. This number was then averaged over all 200.

The first 200 runners to complete the 4-minute mile spanned a period of twenty years, from 1954 to 1974. They came from 28 different countries in Europe (88), North America (78), Oceania (22) and Africa ( 12).

Born between 1928 and 1955, they were on average 23 years old when they ran the mile in under 4 minutes, with times ranging between 3:52.86 and 3:59.9 minutes. Of the total, 60 (30%) had died and 140 were alive at the time of analysis. The average age at death was 73, but ranged from 24 to 91, while the average age of surviving runners was 77, ranging from 68 to 93.

No information was available on the cause of death for most athletes, but of the seven who died before the age of 55, six were due to trauma or suicide and one of the athletes was from pancreatic cancer.

The analysis found that participants who walked less than four minutes lived on average almost five years longer than their predicted life expectancy, based on gender, age, year of birth, age at achievement and nationality.

Taking into account the decade of completion, those whose first successful attempt occurred in the 1950s lived an average of nine years longer than the general population over an average follow-up period of 67 years. Those whose first successful attempt occurred in the 1960s or 1970s lived 5.5 years and almost 3 years longer during an average follow-up period of 58 and 51 years, respectively.

General improvements in life expectancy, secondary to advances in the diagnosis and treatment of several serious diseases, could explain this specific trend, the researchers suggest.

They acknowledge that they did not have any information about the lifetime training habits (or other health behaviors) of the 200 athletes who participated in the study, and thus were unable to determine the precise relationship between lifetime training dose and lifespan.

Furthermore, a comparison with the general population precluded assessment of how other lifestyle factors, such as diet and smoking, cardiometabolic risk factors, and other potentially influential medical factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, might influence longevity. Finally, the study only included men, because no woman has run a mile in less than 4 minutes.

Nevertheless, the researchers say: “This finding challenges the upper ends of the U-shaped exercise hypothesis (as it relates to longevity) and reiterates the benefits of exercise on longevity, even at the level of training required for elite athletes. performance.”

Although the effort required in this group appears to be less than that of endurance athletes, the high aerobic and anaerobic demands of medium-distance events, such as the mile, make it necessary to maintain relatively high training volumes of approximately 9-12 hours or 120-120 hours. train. 170 km per week, the team explains. While all this has the potential to push the body beyond its limits, especially from an intensity perspective, it doesn’t seem to affect longevity, and if anything it seems to extend it, they add.

The physiological explanations for the extended lifespan have yet to be fully identified, the researchers say, but suggest that they likely reflect the positive adaptations of endurance training on cardiovascular, metabolic and immune-related health and function.

Healthy lifestyle and genes may also play a role, they point out, as 20 sets of brothers, including six sets of twins and father-son combinations, were among the first 200 runners to complete the four-minute mile.

More information:
Outrunning the Grim Reaper: Lifespan of the First 200 Male Runners Under 4 Minutes British Journal of Sports Medicine (2024). DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2024-108386

Provided by British Medical Journal

Quote: Life span of less than 4 minutes shows that extreme exercise does not appear to limit lifespan (2024, May 9), retrieved May 10, 2024 from longevity-extreme-doesnt.html

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