Running marathons does not increase atherosclerosis risk

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Previous studies have suggested that intensive endurance exercise such as marathon running is harmful to cardiac health.

Running multiple marathons does not pose an additional risk for premature subclinical vascular impairment beyond age, conclude the authors of a new study.

The finding comes at a time when debate continues over whether intensive endurance exercise such as marathon running is harmful to cardiac health, with research suggesting a potential adverse effect of repeated marathon running.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology , recruited 97 participants of the 2013 Munich marathon who did not have a history of cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension or smoking.

It found runners had normal mean values for arterial stiffness, intima media thickness, and endothelial dysfunction. All three measures of pre-atherosclerosis showed no association with exercise capacity, marathon finishing time, number of completed races, or weekly and annual training distances. Age was the only independent risk factor for pre-atherosclerosis.

“We can conclude that marathon running itself is not a risk factor for atherosclerosis,” said lead author Dr Axel Pressler. “It appears that you can run as many marathons as you want and not be in danger of developing impaired blood vessel function or atherosclerosis.”

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