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Outrunning the grim reaper: longevity of the first 200 sub-4 min mile male runners
  1. Stephen Foulkes1,2,
  2. Dean Hewitt1,
  3. Rachel Skow1,
  4. Douglas Dover3,
  5. Padma Kaul3,
  6. André La Gerche2,4,
  7. Mark Haykowsky1
    1. 1 Integrated Cardiovascular Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    2. 2 Heart, Exercise and Research Trials Laboratory, St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    3. 3 Canadian VIGOUR Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    4. 4 Cardiology Department, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia
    1. Correspondence to Dr Mark Haykowsky, Integrated Cardiovascular Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 1C9, Canada; mhaykows{at}ualberta.ca

    Abstract

    Objectives To determine the impact of running a sub-4 min mile on longevity. It was hypothesised that there would be an increase in longevity for runners who successfully completed a sub-4 min mile compared with the general population.

    Methods As part of this retrospective cohort study, the Sub-4 Alphabetic Register was used to extract the first 200 athletes to run a sub-4 min mile. Each runner’s date of birth, date of their first successful mile attempt, current age (if alive) or age at death was compared with the United Nations Life Tables to determine the difference in each runner’s current age or age at death with their country of origin-specific life expectancy.

    Results Of the first 200 sub-4 min mile runners (100% male), 60 were dead (30%) and 140 were still alive. Sub-4 min mile runners lived an average of 4.7 years beyond their predicted life expectancy (95% CI 4.7 to 4.8). When accounting for the decade of completion (1950s, 1960s or 1970s), the longevity benefits were 9.2 years (n=22; 95% CI 8.3 to 10.1), 5.5 years (n=88; 95% CI 5.3 to 5.7) and 2.9 years (n=90; 95% CI 2.7 to 3.1), respectively.

    Conclusion Sub-4 min mile runners have increased longevity compared with the general population, thereby challenging the notion that extreme endurance exercise may be detrimental to longevity.

    • Exercise
    • Athletes
    • Longevity
    • Running

    Data availability statement

    Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. Not applicable - all data were obtained from free publicly available databases or information sources.

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    Data availability statement

    Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. Not applicable - all data were obtained from free publicly available databases or information sources.

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    Footnotes

    • ALG and MH are joint senior authors.

    • X @S_FoulkesAEP, @alagerche, @@mhaykows; @iCARE_lab_UofA

    • Contributors All authors have contributed to and reviewed the revised version of the manuscript. SF, DH, ALG, MH: conceived and designed the research. DH, RS: collected data. DD: analyzed data and prepared figures. SF, DH, DD, RS, PK, ALG, MH: interpreted the results. SF, DH, MH: drafted the manuscript. SF, DH, RS, DD, PK, ALG, MH: edited and revised the manuscript and approved the final version. Guarantor: MH

    • Funding No funding sources were used in the direct preparation of this article. RS is supported by an Alberta Innovates Postdoctoral Fellowship. MH is supported by an endowed research chair in Aging and Quality of Life from the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta.

    • Competing interests None declared.

    • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

    • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.