Marathons can tax amateurs' hearts

Your body takes a serious knock during a marathon.
Your body takes a serious knock during a marathon.

While completing a full marathon is a goal for many amateur runners, new research shows a shorter endurance race might put less strain on the heart.

To gauge stress on the heart among 63 amateur runners after they had run either a full marathon, a half marathon or a 10km race, the researchers assessed levels of certain proteins that are tied to heart issues.

Risk of cardiac events

People who ran a full marathon had much higher levels of these proteins than those in the other two groups, according to the study published in the journal Circulation.

However, there was little difference between the three groups in 10-year risk for cardiovascular events – an average of about 3%.

"We typically assume that marathon runners are healthy individuals, without risk factors that might predispose them to a cardiac event during or after a race," lead investigator Juan Del Coso said in a journal news release.

"But with the growing popularity of long-endurance races, the exponential increase in the number of participants, and the lack of appropriate training in some cohorts of amateur runners, our findings suggest that running shorter endurance races might reduce the strain" on the heart, said Del Coso. He is director of the exercise physiology laboratory at Camilo Jose Cela University, in Madrid, Spain.

The number of people in the study was not large enough to fully assess differences in 10-year cardiovascular risk, but the researchers said they plan to examine this in a larger group of runners.

Image credit: iStock

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