There has been a long debate on how the heart is affected by marathon running, Nandini Reddy talks about the research that allays fears.
Exercise is suggested as a good way to improve the health of your heart and lungs. But there has always been a debate about how much exercise one should do. Experts cannot agree on what is the right amount of exercise and each of them seems to have a different opinion. Running is one of the easiest exercises to start for people who want to get off the couch and get fit. But there is a divided opinion on how running affects your heart. One group feels running has no lasting effect on a healthy heart but another group things heart damage is linked to running.
What does the research say?
But instead of opinions if we look at research, you will find that when runners finish a marathon there is a certain level of stress that is visible in the heart muscles that is reversed after rest and the effect is only temporary. While runners who train regularly have a lower incidence of this effect, the new runners who attempt to run marathons without proper training seem to show higher levels of such stress.
The research was expanded to see how the heart function is changed for marathon runners. Marathon running is a high endurance activity that keeps the heart in the zone of 60-70% of their maximum heart rate for an extended period of time. This means that the heart needs to work at higher levels for a longer period of time but if the runners is trained their is no lasting effect of the stress the heart takes. If a runner doesn’t rest adequately after a marathon race then the effects of the stress cannot be reversed fully and there might be a last affect on how the heart functions.
So what can you do?
- Draw up a training plan with a coach
- Do not attempt a marathon unprepared
- Take care of your health first, you can always finish the next marathon
- Adequate rest is important after a training session and a marathon
- Get regular health checks if you have a weak heart or a history of heart conditions in the family
People with lower fitness levels should not attempt marathons without proper training. Even if your heart is in good condition, taking on an endurance activity without adequate preparation is not a good idea. With training, coaching and monitored fitness sessions one can run a marathon with ease and recover as well. But running marathons without preparation is never a good idea.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.