The Department of Health and Human Services recommends healthy adults receive at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. These values may change slightly depending on age, body type and medical history.
Although the association between sedentary lifestyles and chronic disease is well established, epidemiology remains one of the most perplexing disciplines in medical research; as recently demonstrated by a new study published in the journal Palgrave Communications.
In contrast with conventional wisdom, researchers from The Tokyo Institute of Technology discovered that daily strenuous activity might actually yield adverse effects on overall health.
This alarming discovery followed exhaustive research into the longevity of Kabuki performers.
Kabuki is an art defined by fast and strenuous movement. Considering, it would stand to reason that performers would enjoy all of the benefits frequent activity has been studied to support. However, time logistic regression analysis determined that lifespan is significantly shorter for Kabuki actors compared to the otherwise healthy demographics studied in the report.
“Here we show the effects of various occupations that include being sedentary and performing music and exercise activities and/or birth year on longevity of 699 professional male artists either alive or dead, as reported in books and webpages,” the researchers write in the new paper. Discrete-time logistic regression analysis showed that the lifespan was significantly shorter for Kabuki actors than among the other three Japanese traditional artists. This result suggests that daily strenuous exercise as an occupation shortens rather than prolongs the lifespan.”
The influence of occupation on the longevity of traditional artists
The researchers focused on four Japanese traditional arts professions: Kabuki, Sado, Rakugo and Nagauta.
Kabuki requires the most physical activity from its performers, while the other three primarily consist of storytelling, music, and tea ceremonies. The birth and death records of all of the 699 theatre artists are publicly available.
Before the completion of the study, the authors assumed that Kabuki actors would evidence the longest life spans compared to the other three categories.
Interestingly enough, overexertion can actually undo the positive effects of regular physical activity—this is especially true of extreme endurance exercises.
If done in excess, these kinds of workouts put extreme demands on the cardiovascular system, which can lead to thickening of the muscle’s walls and tissue scarring over time.
I might add, in the middle of a pandemic and ahead of a potential second COVID-19 wave, excessive exercise has also been studied to suppress the immune system. After an intense workout, our immune system response is slightly impaired for about 72 hours.
In the case of Kabuki performers, in particular, the neutralizing effect of over-exercise might be compounded by the use of lead-containing white powder used as face make-up during performances prior to 1934.
When studying longevity, one has to account for so many factors. The correlation between Kabuki and early death is compelling, but more discreet research needs to be conducted in order to categorically identify all aggravating correlates.
In a recently published study, researchers concurrently concluded that women were less likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they were physically active at least once a week and that risk of heart attacks and strokes increased among women who exercise strenuously every single day.
“The effects of daily strenuous exercise on the analyzed artists have been verified, and the results indicate that it may be necessary to determine the optimal amount of exercise for protecting their health,” the authors concluded. “It is also necessary to consider the effects of non-exercise activities in analyzed professions, such as playing musical instruments, singing and speaking on health and longevity.”