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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
December 12, 2012

Marathon Moderation: Give Your Heart Time to Rest After A Long Distance Run

When you run, you don't only exercise your arms and legs; your heart gets pushed as well. By Charlene J. Owen

Running has slowly become a famous workout in recent years. But although running does improve your physical constitution, you need to remember that as with everything else, you should do it in moderation. Trying too hard to beat your previous time and distance may, in the end, cause you more harm than good.

A study published in the British journal Hearts and reported on has revealed that over a period of time, endurance sports like running may cause subtle damage to the heart. Distance runners who keep at it without letting their bodies rest and recuperate may suffer from accumulated scarring. 

“The heart pumps about five quarts per minute when we’re sitting. When we’re running it goes up to 25 to 30 quarts. The heart wasn’t meant to do that for hours, day in and day out. You end up overstretching the heart and tearing muscle fibers. Up to 30 percent of those who finish marathons have elevated troponin levels, which is a marker for heart damage. That’s the marker we look for to see if someone’s having a heart attack--it’s irrefutable evidence of heart damage,” lead study author Dr. James O’Keefe explains.

Of course, the troponin that marathon runners produce is still a far cry from those with high risk of having a heart attack, but the point is that doing the exercise in excess may lead to problems later on.

The good news is that runners have 19 percent lower risk of death as compared to those who choose a sedentary lifestyle. Those who give their bodies time to rest after a long distance run prove to be healthier as compared to those who don’t.

The best way to cash in on the benefits of this endurance exercise is to do it in moderation. Don’t push yourself to beat your previous time or distance especially if you haven’t checked with a cardiologist or have a trainer in tow. Always do warm-ups before you start your route, make sure to have your blood pressure checked before the starting gun fires. As with every muscle in the body, the heart needs time to rest after it exerts itself, so make sure to give it just that.

(Photo by gwaar via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Charlene J. Owen
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