Posts Tagged ‘heartbeats’

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#40 – Frazz Understands

28 November 2007

Back in April the inaugural article on this blog was about heartbeats and life expectancy and it has been one of the most popular posts ever since. The concept that we may have a finite odometer attached to our heart is a fascinating one, and it’s one of the best motivations to get out there and run.

FrazzJef Mallet, the creator of the comic strip Frazz, understands this motivation. Mallet is a devoted endurance athlete and that aspect of himself is projected onto Frazz, the main character in his comics. In the October 28th Sunday edition, Frazz explains why burning up your heartbeats in training can lead to a longer life expectancy.

Does this mean that Mallet was one of the readers of my blog? While I’d love to be a source of anyone’s inspiration, evidence in the Sunday comic indicates that Mallet probably got the idea from an article about the theory of aging by the Santa Fe Institute.

If you haven’t heard of Frazz, check it out, especially if you’re a runner or other endurance junkie. You can probably identify with a lot of topics in the comic; my favorite one I sadly can’t find anymore, but it mirrored a conversation I once had with my brother Ryan that went something like this:

Ryan: Did you go running today?
me: Yeah, but I only did an easy three miles.
Ryan: “Easy” and “three miles” make no sense together!
me: But I was running slowly!
Ryan: “Running” is shooting a layup. Anything measured in miles is too far.

ManateeThe actual Frazz comic is way funnier because it mentions a manatee. I should clarify that Ryan is quite athletic – the only thing he and a manatee have in common is that they’re both intrinsically funny – but he only runs within the confines of a basketball or tennis court. I guess that still counts…

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#1 – Conserve Your Heartbeats

1 April 2007

One of the interesting facts about land mammals is that their life expectancy is the same – if you measure it in terms of heartbeats. All land mammals will live for about 1 billion heartbeats. A shrew has a heart rate of 600 bpm (beats per minute) and a life expectancy of just three years. An elephant with their 30 bpm heart rate can expect to live over 60 years. The hearts of each animal will beat 1 billion times in their expected lifetime.

Humans, of course, are the exception – we can last for about 3 billion heartbeats. I’m not sure why – maybe medical technology, nutrition, who knows. Marine mammals don’t follow the pattern either, but let’s stick with ourselves and our 3 billion heartbeats. There are 525,600 minutes in a year, and the average human has a resting heart rate of 72 bpm, so divide that into 3 billion and you get a life expectancy of 79.3 years.

I was talking about this topic with a co-worker when he asked me “So how many days of your life did you burn up by running that ultramarathon?” Holy cow. My heart rate was probably around 150 bpm for the 12 hours it took me to run 50 miles, so in half a day I used up just over a day’s worth of heartbeats! More than that, I ran for 180 hours total in 2006 – that’s 7.5 days of extra heartbeats spent on running! Is it really worth it?

Before I started running three years ago, my resting heart rate happened to be the average 72 bpm. Let’s assume that I lived my first 28 years at that heart rate, which means I used up 1.06 billion of my life’s heartbeats in that span. Now let’s assume that I keep running (or cycling or otherwise keeping in good shape) for the rest of my life. My current resting heart rate is about 56 bpm, so if I keep that up for my remaining 1.94 billion heart beats, I would live another 69 years… to the age of 94!

By getting into (and staying in) good shape, I increased my life expectancy by 15 years! Each year I spend as a runner costs me one week of heartbeats, but the improved fitness adds 13 weeks to my life expectancy for a net of +12 weeks. Another way to look at it: Every month of regular running adds one week to my life! Diving deeper yet… assuming I run 3.5 times per week, that means that each run adds 12 hours to my life. How’s that for a good investment?

Yes, it’s worth it. Assuming, of course, that my clock will tick 3 billion times…