A world class athlete spends a lot of time performing intense exercises. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I assume that these intense exercises causes significant damage to the athlete's cells, but with proper nutrition, they are able replenish these cells with stronger ones. This process of destroying and re-creating cells causes cell divisions to approach the Hayflick limit faster, and hence shorten the athlete's life expectancy.

I also heard that caloric intake causes the number of cell divisions to approach the Hayflick limit faster. World class athletes generally consume substantially more calories than the average individual, which also contributes to a shorter life expectancy.

So for this reason, is the life expectancy of world class athletes generally shorter than the average individual? And what about casual athletes?

Edit If world class athletes live longer lives than the average individual, why is this so despite performing activities that expedite the deterioration of telemeres, and hence, approach the Hayflick limit faster?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know about the Hayflick limit in humans, but Olympic-class athletes tend to live longer than average, as long as it wasn't a contact sport: well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/live-as-long-as-an-olympian $\endgroup$
    – MCM
    Mar 3, 2013 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, then i guess i should revise my question to ask why despite doing things that expedite the deterioration of telemeres, they live longer lives? $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2013 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ not sure that exercise causes most cells to divide more - myocytes dont i think... I think excessive exercise can shorten life due to stress and wear and tear. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    Mar 4, 2013 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ As I know there are not many people can live as long to reach Hayflick limit - most of them are dying earlier as a result of heart diseases, cancer, or accidents. A world class athletes have a healthier way of life then odinary people: they have more physical activity, better food and have a visit to docter more frequent. So I think it is a reason of their longer life. $\endgroup$
    – ceth
    Mar 5, 2013 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ Athletes who work too hard can actually shorten their lives, but for the most part exercise does prolong one's life. Neither of these effects probably have to do with the Hayflick limit tho. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    May 10, 2013 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


Following damage to muscle (e.g., as a result of strenuous activity) the injured fibers are removed (by immune cells) and then replaced by new myofibers (individual muscle cells that join to create new muscle tissue). This is why for a few days after exercise your muscles can be sore - it is the tissues being initially cleared of damaged cells and repaired.

Muscles, like other tissues, have resident stem cell populations ("satellite cells") that are used to replace damaged cells.

Stem cells have potentially indefinite replicative potential, as they express telomerase and thus do not have a traditional Hayflick limit.

Skeleteal Muscle Regeneration

  1. Volonte D, Liu Y, Galbiati F. The modulation of caveolin-1 expression controls satellite cell activation during muscle repair. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 2005 Feb;19(2):237–9.
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    $\begingroup$ I think there's another point here that the cells repaired do not divide and so the tissue in general does not have cell division as a result of exercise. Even healing from injury probably has a minimal impact in this regard as well. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    May 10, 2013 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @shigeta the injured fibres (fused myogenic cells) are removed prior to "healing" (replacement with new fibres), or so I understand it. There may be degrees on damage that can be repaired without total removal, but generally I think the old is cleared to make room for new, stronger fibres (hence muscle being stronger after training (i.e. damage following exercise)) $\endgroup$
    – Luke
    May 11, 2013 at 16:51

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