Don MacDonald pointed out statistics to English Channel swimmers that indicate endurance athletes who exercise for 3 hours or more have an increased chance of dying from cardiac arrest.

According to the article in Peak Performance, “…any athlete who participates in a strenuous test of endurance lasting about three hours or more has an increased chance of dying during – and for 24 hours following – the exertion, even when the athlete’s chance of a death-door knock is compared with the risk incurred by a cigarette-smoking, sedentary layabout who spends the same 24 hours drinking beer and watching TV…”

The articles stated that “…if you run marathons or participate in other forms of exercise which last for three hours or more, that’s your approximate risk of suffering an acute heart attack or sudden cardiac death during – or within 24 hours of – your effort. For every 50,000 athletes, one will be stricken during such prolonged activity.”

At the same time, research also indicates that well-trained endurance athletes have about 40% of their sedentary counterpart’s risk of dying from a cardiac problem on a typical day. Peak Performance concluded that “…heart attack risks are greater for athletes who compete in endurance sports…the paradox of exercise is that it increases your risk of dying at the same time that it reduces it.”

But if one does one marathon event per year, there seems to be an advantage of doing an endurance event. That is, if we reduce the chances of dying 364 days per year while increasing the odds of suffering cardiac arrest 1 day per year, then that tradeoff seems like a good bet.

And those odds do not incorporate or calculate the immense amount of joy, camaraderie, challenge and allure of leading a unique and exciting lifestyle with like-minded open water swimmers in the natural environment.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source