It’s a reasonable question: does running damage your heart? In particular, does long distance running damage your heart?
Running marathons and even longer races has become more and more popular. Many runners got started because they want the health benefits associated with running.
But, we can’t forget that the man who ran the first marathon, the Greek soldier Pheidippides, died after he delivered his message.
In The New York Times column Ask Well, Gretchen Reyolds writes:
Running marathons or completing other ultra-endurance events is not necessarily bad for the heart, although it could be. …
Research has been unclear on whether these changes can become harmful. Multiple studies have shown that immediately after running a marathon, most racers show increased levels of a protein associated with cardiac damage. But those levels soon return to normal, with no lingering damage.
Years of prolonged and repeated endurance training and racing, however, might have more pronounced, lasting and worrisome effects.
She concludes by writing that men and women who enjoy endurance training should carry on, but be alert to what their body is telling them.
On the other hand, Science Daily quotes research from Europe which is more disturbing:
Now, after some 30 years, the results of the follow-up study have been published and suggest that long-distance competition skiers — as well as other endurance athletes — are at an unusually high risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormality of the heart’s beating rhythm.
The health benefits of long distance running are not as clear as we were once led to believe.