A study out of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology has demonstrated less cardiac risk in those who completed marathons with more training in preparation for the event.
Canadian researchers measured the heart function of 20 recreational runners at three different stages: during peak marathon training, immediately after finishing the Quebec City Marathon, and three months after the race.
The runners were 18 to 60 years old, had completed 8 marathons on average, and averaged 38 miles a week during peak training. None had any known cardiovascular problems.
Upon completing the marathon, runners experienced areas of inflammation and decreased function in the heart. These changes were greater in runners who ran less miles per week and demonstrated lower aerobic fitness. So running more miles per week will decrease the risk. All cardiac changes resolved at the three-month follow-up, and there were no signs of permanent damage. Buying a treadmill is a great way to train for a marathon and keep up your general fitness. A treadmill can be a great way to continue to keep up your mileage after a big event.
Myocardial edema and loss of function are typically associated with conditions that can lead to arrhythmia or a heart attack, and while the study indicates that finishing a marathon taxes the heart, runners shouldn’t be alarmed.
Eric Larose, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Laval, Quebec and a study co-author said that consistency is important. “I think there is a problem with ‘binging’—cutting shorter runs during the week and piling on the miles over the weekend, or worse, missing the mark during a few training weeks and trying to compensate with monster mileage” Larose said.
Other variables such as heat may have played a role in this study. The weather at the Quebec race was hot; temperatures were in 90s, with relative humidity at 46%. The conditions, the authors note, may put their findings at the extreme end of the continuum, yet they also underscore the importance of training and preparation—you never know what Mother Nature will deliver on race day.
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