Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Higher mileage running linked to earlier death?

There is an ongoing debate in the fitness world: do people who engage in ultra-long endurance sports (such as marathons, Ironman Triathlons, etc.) put themselves at an increased risk of earlier death? It would seem counter-intuitive since we associate greater fitness levels with greater health benefits. But, at some point the law of diminishing returns must play a role and may even suggest that too much exercise is bad for the heart.

Last week at the American College of Cardiology conference, an abstract was presented:

1197-358 - Are Cardiovascular Risk Factors Responsible for the U-Shaped Relationship between Running and Longevity? The MASTERS Athletic Study

The researchers found that those who run >20 miles/week (on average) actually see a decrease in their longevity. In other words, they die earlier. The underlying cause for this remains unclear and I'm sure that over time researchers will discover a scientific explanation, but for now, we should apply common sense: our bodies are not made to run 26 miles. So, maybe it might be OK to run a marathon occasionally, but if we make a habit of running frequent marathons, then perhaps we're damaging our hearts which leads to scarring, heart enlargement, and other abnormalities. 

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