Does Endurance Running Make You More Susceptible to Illness?
Endurance athletes like marathon runners may be more susceptible to colds and infections following a long run or endurance event.
Over the years a large body of research has shown that while moderate exercise can reduce the incidence and severity of colds, intense or prolonged exercise may lead to an increased risk of infection.
Dr. David Nieman, a noted immunologist at Appalachian State University who has worked with endurance athletes like Lance Armstrong, found that running or cross-training 30 to 90 minutes a day several times a week served to strengthen the immune system. But conversely, exercise that lasted longer than 90 minutes could actually increase an athlete’s risk of infection.
According to Dr. Neiman, running 90 minutes or longer inhibits cells that help fight infection which can result in a temporary downtown in immunity that leaves athletes more vulnerable to colds and bugs.
Of course following generally accepted health guidelines like frequent hand washing and sneezing in your sleeve and not your hand can help stay infection; but there are also a couple of added precautions that may help runners guard against post-race infections.
Consume carbohydrates immediately before, during and after a race. Carbohydrates keep stress hormones and inflammatory markers controlled thereby reducing infection risks.
Get plenty of extra rest as immunity boosting growth hormones are released during sleep.
Provide your immune system added support by taking Vitamin C and Echinacea.
Another important fact to consider is that not all runners will become sick after a long run or race. In fact, the majority of runners do not fall ill. So the next time you’re scheduled for a long run or race, take steps to reduce your risk of infection but don’t let anything stand in your way. Get out there and enjoy your run!
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