Do contortionists have a different life expectancy than non-contortionists?

We all have experience with stretching. At some point in our lives we have all purposely, or by accident, stretched our bodies in ways that may not have felt good. It may have felt like we reached the maximal range of motion of that joint. Contortionists spend years going further than perhaps most believe is possible, or even healthy. As an individual who has never been particularly flexible, I view contortionists and what they can do, as something of a miracle. The question posed by one of my students was “do contortionists have a shorter life expectancy?” It might be safe to assume that they do not, because physical activity has many health benefits. This post is going to explore this question and try to come to a reasonable conclusion.

The more physically active you are the better off you will be. There are many studies that concur with this statement, a semi-recent review of literature concluded that the worst thing you can do for your health is to not participate in physical activity (Powell, Paluch, & Blair, 2011). Interestingly, the review conducted by Powell, Paluch and Blair (2011) also noted that there is no lower or upper threshold regarding the amount of physical activity you should do to benefit your health. Essentially, something is better than nothing and there little to no evidence suggesting that too much exercise is bad for your health. Being a contortionist is definitely being physically active, so at this point, we can reasonable say that contortionists are benefiting by participating in their craft.

I can say with certainty that being flexible and stretching does have health benefits. These health benefits include, but are not limited to: (a) increased range of motion (can aid in injury prevention), (b) pain tolerance (increasing range of motion allows you to exert less force to stretch further), and (c) prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (as long as you stretch after exercise) (Costa & Vieira, 2008).  One of the few detriments of stretching, which is related to but not the same as flexibility, is by doing stretches before strength activities (such as lifting weights). Stretching before strength activities will reduce the amount of force you can exert (Costa & Vieira, 2008). This does not mean those who do strength activities should not stretch or do a warm up before exercise, what it suggests is to limit the amount of full range of motion stretching before strength activities. After searching terms such as “contortionists”, “contortionists” and “lifespan”, “flexibility” and “lifespan” among many other combinations, I have concluded there is no empirical evidence to suggest if contortionists do or do not live longer than non-contortionists. What we can say with certainty is that being physically active and doing stretching exercises is good for your health.


Costa, B.R. & Vieira, E.R. (2008). Stretching to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders: A systematic review, Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 40, 321-328.

Powell, K. E., Paluch, A.E., & Blair, S.N. (2011). Physical activity for health: What kind? How much? How intense? On top of what?, Annual Review of Public Health. 2, 349-365.


I have had some pain in my right foot for several of my recent runs. I noticed some swelling in the joint of my little toe which leads me to believe it is a minor inflammation issue. I am hoping some days off along with icing will solve the issue. I believe this issue has been caused by my shoes being too tight when I run. I like my current running shoes; however, I have had issues with being able to get the right amount of “tightness” when tying my shoes. I have never worn Adidas running shoes before and these are super light but they have very little padding that most other running shoes have. I believe it is the lack of padding in the shoes that have lead me to tying my shoes too tight and perhaps causing issues. Regardless, this has not stopped me from biking; only running. I will take a week off from running in the hopes this is a minor issue. I have already noticed the swelling and pain go down in the couple days I have taken off so far. On Sunday it was in the mid 60’s and raining, or as I call it… perfect running weather! Unfortunately because of my foot I did not run, but I certainly wanted to.


Finally!!! Spring is here and the weather is better. Running outside with short sleeve shirts with no gloves or cap on is really nice. The past couple weeks I have been continuing my runs and still biking inside. Due to the rough winter, the roads are in very bad shape, lots of pot holes and flooding in low lying areas. Many of the roads are not bike friendly at the moment. I am hoping, soon, that I will be able to get outside on the bike as the roads dry up and pot holes are fixed. Since the last time I posted, I went climbing at Vertical Limit with my wife. It had been a while since climbing so my arms and shoulders were very sore afterwards. The amazing thing about climbing, at least in my experience, is that the time you have to stop is not determined by your arm fatigue or leg fatigue, it is your grip. Even if you have more energy in your arms and legs, if you can’t grip the wall anymore then your ability to climb is severely limited! Regardless, I need to continue to make a concerted effort on arm and core strength.

Very Blue

I went for a run the other day and realized I was very blue! I apparently need to buy a greater variety of running gear. Over the weekend I ran in my first 5k race in two years. I have not really trained for this other than going out for runs. I have not done any methodological speed training, fartleks or any type of interval training. My goal was to go sub 20 minutes, I ended up running a 20:20 (which is just over 6:30 pace). The weather was not great, it was windy, snowing, and in the teens. Overall, I am very pleased with the result considering the weather, my training, etc. I know I could run faster because I was fairly comfortable most of the race (i.e. I wasn’t hyperventilating!) and I was not too sore in the days following. The race was a good confidence booster knowing kind of where I am at fitness wise and knowing that I have lots of room to improve. I look forward to getting back into doing my 5k’s in the 17 minute range!


Enough with the cold!

What makes cold weather seem worse is when we have those random days that are in the 50’s and 60’s then it dips back down into the teens. I have been consistently running 4-5 times per week except for the week I got sick. I will be doing my first race this weekend, a 5k at USI’s campus. My goal is to break 20 minutes which I believe I can do. I recently got a new pair of running shoes, they are Adidas. I have never worn Adidas running shoes before; I had always worn Saucony and Asics for the most part. So wearing a new brand is a bit of an experiment. So far, I like the shoes, but the true test will be to see how long they last. They are really light weight shoes and that worries me about their durability. I have been doing core and upper body work once a week, so I still need to continue to push myself to do this very important aspect of my health.



My running has been consistent but I am still working on getting consistent with my abdominal and upper body work outs. It is amazing however that the few times I have done core and upper body work in the past couple weeks the difference it can make. I have already noticed a more toned look and I am sure it will continue to become more apparent as I incorporate these activities into my life. My goal is still 2-3 times per week, and right now that is consisting of planks, bridges and push-ups. I figure start with “simple” things then as I have a base I will do other things such as use a TRX, lift weights, etc. When I did planks this weekend, one of our cats decided to help…


Making changes is hard!

So far I have not done well with my goal of 2-3 times per week of abdominal and upper body strength work. So far… I have done it once in the last week… I could blame it on any number of things, but those are just excuses. I have had the time; it really doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to do some planks and push-ups. I just need to force myself to do it! I also have come up with a new running goal. I want to run a sub 6 minute mile within the next couple months. Yesterday I ran a “new record” according to my watch of 6:17 for the third mile of my three mile run. I think the running goal will come much easier than the abdominal and upper body work out routines. I will do some of each when I get home today, before I do anything else (like relax), otherwise I won’t do it… (Fight the laziness, fight the laziness!) I will let you all know how it goes next week, have a good weekend!