Running a marathon without proper training may increase your chances of heart attack

There is only one thumb rule when it comes to running a marathon and that is – you need to train before you hit the track otherwise your heart health might be at risk.
People running a marathon
Slow and steady wins the marathon. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.
IANS Published: 27 Feb 2020, 10:36 am IST
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Running a marathon has become a cult nowadays. Everyone wants to give it a shot. Some want to do it for the social media fam and some for fitness. Actually, it’s a great trend that has picked up in India but there is only one drawback. People want to run but proper training is missing in their schedule – especially, who do it for fun. And this small mistake might give you a big blow in the form of a heart attack. 

According to the study published in the journal Circulation, while aerobic exercise generally benefits health, extreme endurance exercise — like marathon and triathlon — can raise a person’s risk for sudden cardiac arrest and atrial fribrillation.

running a half marathon
Running more 20 kilometres might seem daunting, but it’s all about the harmony between your mind and body. Image courtesy: Nivedita Samanta/Adidas

Stay active but don’t overdo it especially, if you an inactive lifestyle
After reviewing more than 300 scientific studies, the research team found that physically active people, such as regular walkers, have up to a 50% lower risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death. Having said that, the team of researchers also identified the potential risks attached to intense exercise training.

 “Exercise is medicine, and there is no question that moderate to vigorous physical activity is beneficial to overall cardiovascular health. However, like medicine, it is possible to underdose and overdose on exercise — more is not always better and can lead to cardiac events, particularly when performed by inactive, unfit individuals with known or undiagnosed heart disease,” said Barry A Franklin, Professor at Oakland University in the US.

Franklin added:

More people are running marathons, participating in triathlons and doing high-intensity interval training. The purpose of this statement is to put the benefits and risks of these vigorous exercise programmes in perspective.

Risk of heart attack is more in men than women
The research group also reviewed a small study that concluded that the risk of sudden cardiac death or heart attack is low among people participating in high-intensity exercises such as marathons and triathlons.

However, over time, the risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac death among male marathon participants has risen, suggesting that these events are attracting higher risk participants (those who may have an underlying or undiagnosed cardiovascular condition such as heart rhythm abnormalities or a prior heart attack).

For women, who comprised only 15% of the study’s population, the occurrence of sudden cardiac death was 3.5 fold less than in men.

Ironman Goa
Meet SuYin, who ran her very first triathlon–the Ironman 70.3–in Goa last year. Image courtesy: SuYin Kalia-Ong

Also, read: Taking on triathlon, part 1: So, I signed up for the Half Ironman in Goa, and…

Among participants in triathlons, almost 40% of cardiac events occurred in first-time participants, indicating that inadequate training or underlying heart problems may be involved.

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The research team also found that half of the cardiac events occur in the last mile of a marathon or half-marathon, so maintaining a steady pace rather than sprinting is advised.

The risk of cardiac events is greater at high altitudes, but can be decreased by spending at least one day acclimating to the elevation prior to strenuous activity, the study said.

For people who want to become more active, the researchers suggested that most people can start a light programme of exercise and build up slowly to a moderate to vigorous exercise regimen.

So, do register for a marathon but before that start making small changes in your lifestyle to avoid the risk of a cardiac arrest.

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