Gain a few extra heartbeats


By Fred Deckert


Community columnist Phil Danner brought up an interesting point about exercise in his recent (July 6) column. Danner wrote of our “fight against nature,” mentioning the exercise fad among other “fights.” His point was that we may have a specific number of heartbeats allowed per lifetime and he preferred not to waste his by exercising. This isn’t a trivial point, Phil probably has lots of company in his opinion and there is some evidence reinforcing his point of a limited number of heartbeats per lifetime. But, this statement bears more investigation.

The average resting heart rate is somewhere between 60-80 beats per minute in an untrained male. An hour’s exercise at the recommended intensity for 40 year old runners is about 125 beats per minute. You could say, “Well, that’s a waste of 45-65 beats x 60 or 2700 to 3900 wasted heartbeats, but you’d be wrong! It’s a proven fact that exercise will drop your resting heart rate, sometimes quite dramatically. I have known people with resting heart rates as low as 35, my own is about 55. What this suggests is that the hour’s exercise will in time drop your heart rate for the other 23 hours a significant amount, perhaps 10 beats/minute or more. A bit of arithmetic will quickly show quite a gain in a day’s time. Assuming a saving of 10 beats/minute, your heart would beat 13,800 times less over that 23 other hours gaining you something like 10,000 surplus heartbeats to put into your life bank. And, you don’t even need a full hour of vigorous exercise per day to accomplish this. You’ll also find that at the 125 beats per minute you will progressively be running faster as your body accomodates to the exercise.

These numbers are somewhat speculative, but the general trend is definitely present, and that’s just one benefit of a good exercise program. You’ve already heard of the weight reduction and higher general fitness condition gained through exercise, isn’t it nice to know you may be giving yourself some extra heartbeats too?