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Running is a good way to stay fit. This is an undeniable statement. But, amateur marathon runners who run less than 64 km each week during training often show signs of cardiac dysfunction after the race.


This is the finding of a study published in the European Heart Journal. Some of these abnormalities may persist for up to a month after the runners crossed the finish line.

The findings were based on a study of 20 amateur athletes who ran the 2003 Boston Marathon and underwent echocardiography (ultrasound imaging of the heart) prior to, immediately after, and about one month after running the 42 km race.

As what a researcher revealed, persons who run less than 64 km per week prior to take part in a marathon can lead to temporary heart muscle weakness and increased pressure in the lung arteries.

The study further mentioned that individuals who consistently ran longer than 72 km per week showed no such signs of damage after completing the marathon. It is known that changes occur in the heart with prolonged and repetitive physical training, as shown in previous Medical research. The changes include enlargement of the heart chambers and increased thickness of the heart muscles.

Most studies agree that these changes are physiologic and that the heart function is still preserved. The particular study of Boston athletes indicated that changes in some aspects of heart function can be detected using a new imaging technique which is more sensitive than the conventional methods. However, these changes are largely transient and the clinical significance of this observation is not clear.

Based on the study involving Boston marathon athletes, some of the changes the researchers noted in the runners included evidence of abnormalities in both the systolic function (the heart’s pumping ability) and the diastolic function (the heart’s ability to relax during beats). All of the systolic abnormalities normalized fairly quickly, but the diastolic abnormalities persisted for up to one month after the race, indicating an inherent alteration in the heart’s ability to relax.

According to a senior consultant cardiologist, some of the observations collected in the study may actually represent attempts by the heart to better adapt to the demands of prolonged strenuous exercise. She also added that there is no proof of heart damage or long-term consequences.

Nevertheless, there are many instances when people who are healthy and have no prior heart-related problems just dropped death after marathon or long-range running. The observational study reinforces the view that one should be adequately trained and conditioned before embarking on endurance sports. Preparation must be done at least 4 to 6 months prior to the actual event with regular intervals for training and rest.

In conclusion, we should do all things in moderation, including exercise.