A really controversial topic is how healthy bodybuilding is.
At first glance- the core value of the sport- is all about being healthy. It’s all about working out, growing muscle, losing fat, and avoiding bad habits that harm your body.
But, when you look deeper into the sport, things get messy. Deaths from performance enhancers (roids) plague the industry (such as Zyzz’s death, a man who left such a positive impact on the lifting world), and the longer-term studies showing that all that muscle can cause organ enlargement makes things look a little sketchier.
While most people will agree that bodybuilding is generally healthy for most people as long as you don’t take it to the extreme, it’s time to look at the statistics.
How long do bodybuilders live?
Well, bodybuilders live, on average: the same amount of time that normal men do, if not longer (80 years old!). Studies show that many bodybuilders from the past century are living just as long as everybody else. However, current pro bodybuilders that abuse performance enhancers seem to have a reduced lifespan (50s), although the studies are still early.
Let’s look at the science and look more in-depth at this. (We will cover the graph more in-depth toward the end)
Bodybuilding Is A Sport About Good Health, Or Is It?
When you think of bodybuilding, you think of people being huge, gnarly, and shredded. Which most people associate with being healthy.
And that’s the truth, bodybuilding is a sport based around being healthy.
The entire concept of the sport is just making your body look good by reducing fat and building muscle.
Plus, there’s a lot more to it like eating healthy, eliminating bad habits like smoking/drinking, and just being more active.
Right now, over half of America is obese. And bodybuilding is quite the opposite of that. (Well, technically all bodybuilders are obese BMI wise, until the body fat % is calculated- read: how to weigh yourself without a scale)
So, most people assume that bodybuilding is about being healthy. And they’re right for the most part. But, it can get a little tricky when you look deeper.
Bodybuilding Is Riddled With Plagues (Performance Enhancers, Stimulants, Organ enlargement)
While bodybuilding seems healthy, it is riddled with plagues.
First of all, performance enhancer abuse runs rampant in the sport. Nowadays more than ever. People thought it was bad in the Golden Era of bodybuilding– let me tell you- it’s a hundred times worse today.
Look, back in the day they didn’t take the amount nor have the deadly variety of performance enhancers they do today. It’s bad, and many people believe it will lead to a reduced life expectancy (but we will cover that further down).
Bodybuilders are now constantly forcing stimulants into their bodies to make their workouts better. For most people, it’s not a big problem- but when you get some of those big guys taking 3-4 scoops of pre-workout for each workout a day, it adds up.
And we are also learning that when bodybuilder’s bodies get so big, their organs get bigger- and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Most people will assume that bigger organs are better, but that’s not exactly true.
So, all of these faults of bodybuilding actually can seriously riddle the body. How does this affect life expectancy?
Most Normal Bodybuilders Live Just As Long As Everybody Else, If Not Longer!
Most normal bodybuilders actually live just as long as everybody else, if not longer!
Now, by ‘normal bodybuilders’- I mean those that are going into the gym maybe 2-3 hours a day, working out 4-5x a week, doing a program like Arnold’s Blueprint, may or may not compete semi-regularly, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, is a NATURAL bodybuilder (no performance enhancers).
We will cover pro bodybuilders in the next section.
Working Out Actually Increases Your lifespan
This is actually surprising to most. People think that most bodybuilders lose a lot of their lifespan.
I’m not really sure what the methodology is behind this, but someone explained their way of thinking was, “your heart only has so many beats, and when you workout your heart rate increases so you lose life faster”.
The truth is, being active and staying fit actually reduces your chances of death.
The leading cause of death in the United States right now is heart disease, and a ton of those deaths can be prevented just by regularly exercising.
When you don’t exercise and eat poorly, your arteries build up plaque inside of them, making it harder for blood to circulate. Eventually, these plaques can rupture and cause a blood clot, which can kill you.
Or, the other way is that these blood clots slowly cause your heart’s arteries to die via higher blood pressure or just blocking blood flow. This causes a severely weakened heart and an earlier death.
So, just by exercising, you are actually adding years onto your lifespan by preventing a myriad of health issues.
Normal Bodybuilders Don’t Really Reduce Their Lifespan At All
When it comes to normal bodybuilders, they don’t really reduce their lifespan at all.
In fact, for the most part, it just increases it.
You have to realize that most ‘normal bodybuilders’ are nothing like you see in the Instagram ads and they look relatively normal-sized.
Sure, they might not be the biggest mass monsters out there, but most bodybuilders look relatively small in comparison to the pros of today. And honestly, that’s perfectly okay.
Having a body type like this is good and where most bodybuilders draw the line for their progress. It doesn’t stress out the organs, it feels healthy, and keeps the hormones in check- all while lookin’ good.
Old School Bodybuilders Lived Until 80
If you look at bodybuilders from the golden era, most of them are still alive today. For instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger is still alive in 2021! The average life expectancy of a golden era bodybuilder is 80.
When you really consider it, that’s amazing. Most of those bodybuilders that people idolize today lived until they were 80 or so. That is a good age for most people to be content with, and is around the average life expectancy.
The truth is, their performance enhancer use was very small. In fact, some may even say that’s the way people should still be doing it today.
While all performance enhancers have downsides, these old school bodybuilders took such a minimal dose that the side effects were seemingly minimal.
Again, never take performance enhancers. But you can see the difference in how little they took, and how much bodybuilders today take.
Pro Bodybuilders Of Today? It Looks A Little Gloom
Now, I’ve been talking about ‘normal bodybuilders’ and ‘old school bodybuilders’ for the majority of this article.
But, what about the pro bodybuilders of today? How long do they live?
Well, the truth is- the answer looks a little gloom.
I will preface this by saying, it is difficult to get these answers. Remember, bodybuilding is still a newer sport! It seems strange to think aside from Eugen Sandow a long time ago- nobody really did bodybuilding until the late 60s.
So, finding the current research and statistics wasn’t easy, but I got an answer for you.
The Current Life Expectancy For Pro Bodybuilders Is 48
According to a study literally named, “MP47-17 RATES OF MORTALITY ARE HIGHER AMONG PROFESSIONAL MALE BODYBUILDERS”, the average life expectancy for pro bodybuilders is 47.7 years.
Basically, they compared the life expectancies of bodybuilders in the 50s, 60s, 70s, etcetera and then examined how much different it is in the ‘modern era of bodybuilding’ (right now).
They found that the current average life expectancy is 48, but their range was: 26.6-75.4. This means that out of their results, the oldest modern bodybuilders were living to 75.4.
That graph really says a lot. You can see a large spike in the 45-49 years of age region.
Now, that doesn’t mean that every bodybuilder dies at that age- or that bodybuilding is the direct cause. Let’s explain this a bit.
Also, keep in mind- this study is still somewhat early and may not be completely accurate. There are other factors like how common smoking used to be that can influence this.
Rampant Performance Enhancer Use Is Lowering Life Expectancy
Look at the bodybuilders on stage today compared to the bodybuilders on stage 60 years ago.
They don’t compare. Today, those bodybuilders are mass monsters and look literally 5x the size of any bodybuilder 50 years ago.
This wasn’t just because they ‘ate more’ or ‘trained more’- it is because of the rampant performance enhancer use.
I’m telling you guys, it is bad. These guys are so focused on getting that trophy that they are putting these horrible performance enhancers in super high dosages straight into their body not caring about the side effects to come.
That’s why people still argue today that Rich Piana’s death may have been directly related to his performance enhancer use.
When bodybuilders get that huge, their organs tend to grow.
This is NOT good and can put serious stress on the rest of the body.
I mean, Rich Piana himself admitted that his size was hard on his heart, so he refused to really ever go above a certain limit of size. Rich Piana was huge, but bodybuilders today ignore his message to take a step back sometimes.
How To Avoid Cutting Years Off Your Life In Bodybuilding
I know you may be reading this freaking out that you’re going to die at 16 now because you picked up one weight in the gym.
Rest assured, you’re fine.
Truth be told, normal gym exercise and weight lifting is perfectly healthy and adds years to your life.
Just remember this:
- NEVER take performance enhancers, and if you do take a MINIMAL amount.
Don’t get ‘MASSIVE’ (300+ lbs of muscle). Everybody has a limit and you’ll be able to feel it with your energy, listen to your body.
- Now, you can still have a lot of muscle. But what I’m saying is- don’t try to be like those guys on the Mr.Olympia stage that are literally 300 lbs of muscle, it’s just not healthy.
Just have fun with it, grow some serious muscle, be big- but remember to set a limit and not get carried away with it.
It’s hard to even reach sizes like that without performance enhancers, so for most bodybuilders out there- it’s not an issue.
Conclusion of How Long Do Bodybuilders Live
So, the verdict is in.
Healthy and natural bodybuilding adds years to your life, but unhealthy bodybuilding with performance enhancers will take a toll on your lifespan.
Even famous bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger are still alive.
Some pro bodybuilders know this and bodybuilding is all they live for, so they don’t care. But, I’d encourage them to step back and realize that the sport can be very luring at times and sometimes you just need to put down the weights.
So, make smart choices, and lift weights in a healthy way.