Marathon running may cause short-term kidney injury

31 March 2017

Running is often promoted as a great workout option, with joggers getting a leg up against heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

But running for long distances, like in a marathon, may come with surprising health consequences.

A new study led by Yale academics has found that the physical stress of running a marathon can cause short-term kidney injury.

Led by Professor Chirag Parikh, researchers studied a small group of participants in the Hartford Marathon back in 2015. The team collected blood and urine samples before and after the 26.2-mile (42 kilometre) event. They analysed various signs of kidney injury, such serum creatinine levels, kidney cells on microscopy, and proteins in urine.

It was discovered that 82 per cent of the runners who were studied showed Stage 1 Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), a condition in which the kidneys fail to filter waste from the blood, soon after the race.

"The kidney responds to the physical stress of marathon running as if it's injured, in a way that's similar to what happens in hospitalized patients when the kidney is affected by medical and surgical complications," said Professor Parikh.

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The researchers explained that possible causes of the marathon-related kidney damage could be the continual increase in core body temperature, dehydration, or lower blood flow to the kidneys that take place while running long distance.

While the documented kidney problem cleared up within two days after the marathon, the experiment has raised awareness about the negative results of repeated exhausting actives over time, with more risk of issues in warmer climates.

"We need to investigate this further," Professor Parikh added. "Research has shown there are also changes in heart function associated with marathon running. Our study adds to the story - even the kidney responds to marathon-related stress."

The full study is published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

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