Think about this – on average, a person’s heart will beat about 100,000 times a day. And, at that rate, around 36,500,000 times a year, for a whopping 3.0+ billion heartbeats in an 85 year life span. I found that number hard to get my head around. I mean, how could a heart beat over 3 billion times in a life? – It’s such a huge number! Isn’t it? Well, the math is the math, and as big as that number might appear, imagine if there was a cap – a maximum number of beats your heart could actually put out. If something like that were true, what would that mean for endurance athletes?
A finite number of possible beats in a lifetime – sounds fishy? Well, there is a theory out there that actually supports that there may be a cap on heartbeats – that once you run out, your time here is done. I’ve heard this idea before and understand that it comes from the observation that in many cases large animals with slow heartbeats tend to live a long time, while small animals with fast heartbeats tend to have shorter life spans. This seems to make some sense to me when I think of things like elephants vs. hamsters, for example. But, if it were true, then would exercise that increases your heart rate actually reduce your life span?
I did some searching and I came across this on Healthy Heart Tips, suggesting exactly that. The comments are pretty funny!
This led me to search out some more info on it, and I wasn’t really able to come up with much at all, leading me to think it is, in fact, totally bogus.
I think the rule of thumb here is the same with most things – the best course is to take everything in moderation. Too little exercise can certainly shorten your lifespan, or at least, reduce your quality of life. The other side of that coin, too much exercise can put undue strain on the body as well, and likely has its own negative impacts on us. But, as for the theory of us using our allotment of heartbeats up, that doesn’t appear to be very well-supported.
This made me wonder though, what if it were true? What if we were actually speeding up our own clocks, and knew it. Would we still ride? Maybe… Probably… Would we still train and race? Again, maybe… It’s hard to say… I mean look at smokers and drinkers. They all know it’s bad for them and they’re likely inching their way to an early demise, but still choose to keep smokin’ and drinkin’! It would be pretty much the same thing, wouldn’t it, trading in some of your chips early for more ‘fun’ now, as opposed to saving them for ‘someday’? The Grasshopper and the Ant. Yes, the Grasshopper and the Ant.