Those who are obese or runners: who lives longer?

Yesterday, CNN reported that being obese, or even simply overweight, can significantly decrease the number of years that you have left on this earth. The article goes on to give numbers, odds, a 1.5 million person sample size and winds up suggesting that this study should quiet those who suggest that there’s no link between obesity and mortality rates. Wait, what was that last part again? That’s right, it seems that there are some who would say that it’s perfectly fine to go through life carrying around extra baggage, that there’s no need to lose weight and that those with BMI’s over 30 will live just as long as those who are, say 24. Now before we, as runners, inflate our egos about how healthy we are and how much smaller our chances of death are, there’s something to consider.

I was reading the other day about, of all things, mortality rates among marathoners — don’t ask why, I’m not even entirely sure myself. It seems that, for those who are involved in intense exercise for three or more hours, be it running a marathon or participating in the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, the chances of cardiac death increase greatly — all the way to something like 50,000-1. And, the chances aren’t increased only during the race, the human body seems to put a 24 hour post exercise time-frame within which the chances of dying from cardiac arrest are heightened. Remember the 2009 Detroit Marathon? Three people died during the race. Now, before you worry yourself into a fit of hyperventilation, know that, as is usually the case, I have the solution: run faster.

It seems to me that, if the chances of cardiac arrest raise after three hours of running, simply pick up the pace and finish in under three hours. Hey, it’s only a 6:52 pace over 26.2 miles — that’s doable for most people, right? You gotta admit, it’s better than dying. If you’re a half-marathoner and you’re usually finishing at the 3 hour mark and beyond, you get to run at a 13:44 pace. If 10k’s are your distance of choice, then you’re allotted a 29 minute per mile pace. Lastly, if you’re doing 5k’s, sub-58 minute miles will get you in before the dreaded time-line of death.

So there it is, an answer for everyone.  To summarize, if you’re carrying extra weight, don’t expect to live as long as those who aren’t overweight. If you’re a runner, be afraid, be very afraid — unless, of course, you can turn on the afterburners and, with the final kick, crank out a sub-58 minute mile in your next race.

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