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Health Risks Associated with Ultramarathons

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If you ever visit the finish line of an ultramarathon, you can easily conclude that such races are unhealthy. Exhausted runners, blistered feet and hectic medical tents are not uncommon.

For regular physical activity Benefit range, from reducing disease risk to improving brain health. However, ultramarathons are not necessarily “regular physical activity” and recent research suggests that they may actually carry long-term risks. It may sound alarming. However, according to experts and current evidence, most people can safely participate in an ultramarathon with smart training and racing habits.

heart concerns

According to Nick Tiller, an ultramarathoner and researcher at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, the heart is the biggest concern about the potential long-term risks of ultrarunning. This is because the cardiovascular system is easily altered by activity and is essential for good health.

Tiller recently review of the potential long-term effects of ultra-endurance racing. What’s your first concern? maladaptation of the heart.

Competing in an ultramarathon requires a fair amount of training to acclimate your body.change – etc. Increased capillary density allow more blood supply to muscles, or increased blood supply Improve your running ability with each heartbeat that allows for greater efficiency.

“All of these are good things, but the downside is that the cardiovascular system is malleable, so it can react negatively,” says Tiller. These negative reactions are well documented.Lifelong runners have a higher risk of developing predictor It causes heart disease and death, including atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) and myocardial fibrosis (heart scarring).Similarly, runners can grow right ventricular dysfunction (reduced efficiency of the right ventricle of the heart) and coronary artery calcium build-up (calcium-rich plaque in arteries).

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These adaptations are found in the majority of endurance athletes. The prevalence of atrial fibrillation among endurance runners and professional cyclists is found 5 times more than other groups. research It was published in the magazine circulation More than 50% of endurance athletes have been found to exhibit right ventricular enlargement.other the study Approximately 50% of high-exercise participants had elevated plaque levels.

If all this sounds amazing, we have good news. According to Tiller, there is some evidence to suggest that high levels of aerobic fitness and high training volumes don’t actually lead to an increased risk of death. study We concluded that increased coronary artery calcium (CAC) associated with high training load does not appear to increase mortality or heart disease risk.another more recent study Despite having higher CAC levels, those who underwent heavy training were less adversely affected than those who exercised less.

Dr. Mark Harast, a sports medicine physician at the University of Washington and medical director of the Seattle Marathon, said: He has published research on optimal exercise levels for cardiovascular health. “We know no bounds [of healthy exercise] teeth. However, given the limited evidence we have, there does not appear to be a clear limit. ”

High level training is absolutely mind-boggling. Some of these changes may be associated with negative outcomes, but the key question is whether they actually lead to health problems or increased mortality. We say there isn’t enough data to provide a definitive answer, but growing evidence suggests there’s no clear point where the benefits of running outweigh the potential risks.

Take-out?If you are healthy, it’s probably safe keep training.

kidney damage

The heart isn’t the only thing affected by an ultramarathon. Racing stress affects multiple body systems. One of the most common health risks on race day is acute kidney injury (AKI), an episode of kidney failure. Blood flow to the kidneys decreases during exercise, resulting in decreased kidney function. AKI is often exacerbated by high temperatures, dehydration, and taking anti-inflammatory medications. It is common in both marathoners and ultramarathoners.

These injuries are short-term illnesses and often heal within a few days.However, repeatedly free space It is associated with a higher likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease. It’s unclear how strong that connection is, and how much danger Ultrarunners are in.

The most common advice to reduce the risk of AKI during a race is to follow current guidelines regarding fluid intake and salt replacement. “There are a lot of things to worry about, like acute kidney injury becoming chronic kidney injury after a race,” says Harrast. “You need to recover before you start hitting the pavement or pushing too much.”

bone and muscle damage

Many runners worry about joint damage, and for good reason. Musculoskeletal injuries are General among endurance athletes. These range from stress fractures to muscle tears to tendonitis. About 90% of the injuries suffered by ultra-endurance athletes are overuse-related, one researcher said. study was announced in sports medicineThis makes sense considering the massive amount of training required to complete these events. Low to moderate levels of running have been associated with increased bone strength, but higher amounts may have the opposite effect.

RELATED: 10 tips to prevent injuries and run healthily

there are some evidence A similar thing happens to the development of osteoarthritis in runners.”Arthritis levels are higher when you’re not running at all. It’s less likely in light to moderate runners.” levels of running are actually effective in preventing arthritis,” says Harast. ”. He emphasizes that most people should not avoid running for fear of developing arthritis.

For runners concerned about developing osteoarthritis, Harrast recommends an individualized approach, as certain factors may predispose them to developing osteoarthritis. These include previous knee injuries and family history. Runners can consult a doctor or physical therapist to develop a strength training program designed to prevent the development of osteoarthritis. Also, be careful with increasing training volume and recovery.

Youth participation

Most experts agree that ultramarathons are not for adolescent athletes. Youth athletes who participate in ultras tend to be injured more frequently than their peers and are more likely to be injured in adulthood. often do not last Participate in a super endurance event.

Harlast agrees. We recommend that you wait until you graduate from high school at the latest for long-distance races such as marathons. He stresses that any participation must be youth-led and that more training should not be the result of parental or coaching pressure. Your training level is likely too high, increasing your risk of burnout.As such, many experts recommended Discourage young people from specializing in a single sport until after puberty.

reduce risk

Post-race stress is felt throughout the body. “There will be big changes in your body. You’ll have a lot less lung function, a lot less heart function, and a lot more inflammation,” says Tiller. Most of these changes occur within a few weeks. will be canceled. In most cases, intermittent dosing is nothing to worry about. However, Tiller, who recently turned 40, is concerned about the long-term effects of repeated exposure to these stresses, and races accordingly. changed the habits of

“I am much more conservative when it comes to running because I know the literature as much as I do. I used to race 3-5 ultra races a year, but these days, especially as I get older, I become more selective. I started to do that,” he says. The time between races allows his body to recover.

How long it takes between races varies from individual to individual. It depends on factors.

Similarly, Harlast’s biggest piece of advice for aspiring ultramarathons is: He stresses that recovery is essential both in training and after races. “Really, this means paying attention to your body. Don’t go through injury and pain. Don’t try to push when you’re not ready.”

Harrast says runners need to get enough sleep and nutrition, and watch out for musculoskeletal ailments. Whether it’s massage or myofascial work, or cross-he training and holidays, recovery is essential to sports health and longevity. Likewise, following an individualized training plan tailored to you can improve your race results while accelerating recovery and reducing the risk of overtraining.

So are ultramarathons safe? Most likely yes. By making informed decisions about which races to run, how often to race, and how well you are recovering, most people can participate in an ultramarathon without negative consequences. Running is good for your health, and ultramarathons are a fun way to challenge yourself and compete with like-minded people.

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