Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are marathons dangerous?

A new study has come out about possible adverse effects of training for endurance events, specifically marathons and triathlons. The study showed that training for these events can have an effect on the structure of the heart. This is not the first study to question whether this type of exercise can be bad for the heart. However, most studies in the past showed that, although changed, heart function was not impaired.

The major issue with this study is the small sample size. The study observed 40 participants, using advanced imaging techniques to monitor changes to the heart tissue. While most of the athletes' hearts returned to their normal shape within days of completing the endurance event, 5 participants' hearts remained changed after the final imaging was performed. These 5 individuals had been training for longer than the other participants, leading to a need to investigate further the effects of long-term training (i.e. - participating in many marathons spanning years).

I am often asked by patients whether or not they should train for a marathon. While not trying to discourage them, I feel that most people should not train for these types of events. My reasoning is not due to stress on the heart, but physical stress this type of training places on the body as a whole. Grant it, most of the patients asking me this question have a history of problems that marathon training could worsen!

I feel that people who have been active their entire life and have continually exercised in a cardiovascular nature should be fine training for an endurance event. However, I have seen many cases of the "weekend warrier" deciding to run a marathon and paying for it with some sort of chronic issue. My advice is always to listen to your body and adjust your exercise accordingly!

To read more about this study, follow this link:

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on the web at!

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