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Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

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Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

Post by Guest on Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:58 pm

I think our HEART Ultra folks should contact these people doing the study.  Makes me think they are not surveying or including the right athletes in their studies.


Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

By Amanda Woerner

Published January 09, 2014

| FoxNews.com

Ultramarathons – races over 26.2 miles – have experienced an exponential surge in popularity over the past decade, as runners line up to push their bodies to the limit during races that sometimes boast 100-mile-long courses.

Now, a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE seeks to explore the health of ultramarathoners – and whether the extreme sport carries any dangerous consequences.

Lead study author Dr. Marty Hoffman is familiar with the trials – and joys – of ultramarathoning. After logging his first 50-mile race in 1985, Hoffman has gone on to complete numerous ultras over the years, including 10 100-mile races.

“The real key here is figuring out whether there’s an upper limit for the valuable effects from exercise…,” Hoffman, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of California, Davis, told FoxNews.com. “We know that moderate exercise has considerable health benefits, so then the question is, what happens if you go beyond that?”

Ultramarathoners: The picture of good health?

For his study, Hoffman and Dr. Eswar Krishnan, an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, recruited 1,200 ultrarunners to participate in an online questionnaire about their running history, training habits, general health and any running injuries incurred over the previous 12 months.

At a glance, ultramarathoners appear generally healthy, reporting few serious health problems and illnesses throughout the year-long study. They missed fewer days of work due to illness or injury compared to the general population and also reported visiting the doctor less frequently.  

“These people generally are healthy,” Krishnan told FoxNews.com. “If you already have heart failure or other medical issues, you wouldn’t be ultramarathon-running.”
This is horse hockey.  scratch They need to talk to our CAs 
However, the study authors acknowledged that the mental toughness of ultramarathoners – honed through years of extreme training – might also make them less likely to admit to illness.

“It may have to do with mentality, endurance. People who like to take a day off at the slightest sign of a medical issue versus people who can put up with a lot of stuff, that needs to be factored in,” Krishnan said. “A lot of it is in their mind, it’s in their brain, it has to do with endurance.”

Knee pain, stress fractures and asthma

Though generally healthy, ultrarunners are by no means immune to illness or injury, Krishnan and Hoffman said. The majority of the health problems encountered by ultramarathoners fell into three categories: knee pain, stress fractures and problems relating to allergies and asthma.

“Knee pain is a major concern…ligament problems, tendon problems,” Krishnan said. “We hope to see over time how many are serious and how many are soft tissue injuries.”

Notably, ultrarunners also had high rates of asthma and allergies. Though only 7 to 8 percent of the general population has problems with asthma or allergies, 11 percent of survey participants reported these types of issues.

“People who run, presumably, they spend a lot of time outdoors and they encounter a lot of allergy-producing, asthma-provoking allergens,” Krishnan said. “But obviously it’s not activity-limiting though, or they wouldn’t be running marathons.”

However, the true health consequences of ultramarathoning remain to be seen – and Krishnan and Hoffman plan to continue to follow this group of ultrarunners for the next 20 years.

“Let’s say when we review it, it turns out that 600 (out of the 1,200) stopped running because of a major medical issue – that would be a dead giveaway that it’s not necessarily safe for everybody,” Krishnan said.

In the future, they also hope to assess whether or not ultrarunners are more prone to developing serious, activity-limiting injuries or serious health issues related to over-exercising.  

“In particular, in recent years there’s been concern about high volumes and intensity of exercise causing cardiac fibrosis,” Hoffman said. “There’s also some concern about the effect of exercise on the immune system and if that alters risk for certain types of cancer.”

Additionally, they hope to delve into the psyche of these extreme athletes – to find out what makes them tick, and what drives them to push their bodies to extremes.

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Re: Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

Post by Dave Tuttle on Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:02 pm

Should be an interesting study... Asks some of the same questions I have about long term implications.

One point they touch on is undeniable IMO and really is the key to everything - including how everyone here on the forum got here.

“It may have to do with mentality, endurance. People who like to take a day off at the slightest sign of a medical issue versus people who can put up with a lot of stuff, that needs to be factored in,” Krishnan said. “A lot of it is in their mind, it’s in their brain, it has to do with endurance.”

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Re: Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

Post by Viking on Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:21 am

From my perusal of the existing data on endurance sport training I have come to the conclusion that beyond a certain total workload (intensity X duration) we are not gaining any benefit in terms of heart health. To me that means the "more is better" mentality is questionable and we should admit that we are motivated by goals other than physical health.

Our ego sets goals (aspirations, achievement etc.) that satisfy us in other ways but lets be honest: it's not all about health or living longer. Why do I want to do a Century ride a year and a half after bypass surgery at 65 years old? Because I believe I can and I know I would have a profound feeling of accomplishment.

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Re: Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

Post by EugeneRunner on Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:32 pm

I've never raced an ultra. But I am 100% certain that racing a marathon at a high level is absolutely bad for your health. On the other hand, the health gains from training for a marathon almost certainly offset the risk and damage done by the race itself.

Logically it would seem that an ultra would be more damaging than a marathon. But the lower intensity, eating during the race, etc. might offset the longer duration. Although studies have shown many ultramarathoners do significant damage in a race, and even heart damage, that isn't universal.

My cardiologist is great about this, and echos what Viking said. He told me that by running competitively I'm taking a risk. But I also need to live my life, and that doesn't mean trying to avoid every risk.

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Re: Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

Post by Tom price on Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:19 pm

I, on the other hand, have doubts that racing a marathon ( depending on your definitions) is bad for your health.  Immediately after the race, sure damage was done to all muscles.  But isn't that true of training?  Once we recover, our muscles gain strength.
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Re: Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

Post by russwyd on Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:55 am

Interesting article, though I've heard it many times and I tend to agree with a lot of my fellow Cardiac Athletes - my drivers are not necessarily all 'health' related (otherwise I may as well take up yoga or do regular all-round gym classes, and I'd certainly eat and sleep better if I was that concerned about such things), and I also believe firmly in living while I'm alive  Surprised Smile Smile 

Great note that people with illnesses etc wouldn't be running ultra marathons in the first place! Would love to meet the writer and put him right on that one!
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Re: Fox Website Article, Ultramarathons: Is running 100 miles bad for your health?

Post by Gary E on Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:31 pm

russwyd wrote:...I also believe firmly in living while I'm alive

My new mantra! Thanks, Russ.
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